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Chapter One 

"Oyou u-lio believe! Stand outfirmly for Allah, as witnesses tofair dealing, 
and let not the hatred of others toyou makeyou swerve towards ineauity and 
departjromjustke. Bejust: that is closer to Pkty: and fear Allah. For Allah 
is well-acqaamted witk all thatyou do." 

Guidance, comfort and beauty. For the believing Muslim the Holy Qur'an 
is all this and much more: the heartbeat of faith, a remembrance in times 
of joy and anguish, a fountain of precise scientific reality and the most 
exquisite lyricism, a treasury of wisdom and suppiicau'ons. Its verses hang 
from the walls of shops and living rooms, lie etched in the minds of young 
and old, and reverberate through the night from minarets across the globe, 
Even so, Sir William Muir ( 1 8 1 9- 1 905) adamantly declared it one of "the 
most stubborn enemies of Civilisation, Liberty, and the Truth which the 
World has yct known". 2 Others have been no more charitable, seeing fit 
to heap abuse or cast suspicion upon it throughout the centuries and up 
to our present day, among them scholars, missionaries, and now even the 
occasional poiitician. Such a dichotomy is aggravating to Muslims and 
certainly perplexing to the non-Muslim, vvho would be well justified in 
supposing that each group was alluding to a different book aitogether, 
W hat are the facts and what is the evidence? Faced vvith such an immense 
and sensitive topic brimming with ideas to consider, I could have begun 
my explorations anywhere; the starting point, as it finally turned out, was 
to be an artide by someone I had never heard of before. 

"What is the Koran?", the lead article of the january 1999 issue of The 
Atlantic Monthly, raised many issues concerning the origins and integrity 
of the Qur'an. 3 The author's credentials, a certain Toby I^ster, are given 

1 Quran 5:8. 

3 O." ^ i" M. Broomhall, Islam in China, New Impression, London, 1987, p. 2. 
this C " e k thereaf ! er as Lester M *°< though his article spells the Qur'an as 'Koran', 

dif *, mcaU >' incorrect and I will utilise the proper speliing whenever I am not 


in thc magazine and suggest that hc does not havc any knowledgc of Islam 
asidc from having lived in Yemcn and Palestinc for a few years, lhough 
tliis hardly sccms Lo hindcr him for hc dclves headloug ituo otintroversy. 

He mentions that; 

Western Koranic scholarship has traditionally taken place in thc context 
of an openly declared hostility betwcen Christianity and Islam.... The 
Koran has ceemcd, for Christisn and Jewish scholars particularly, to 
possess an aura of heresy..,* 

Aftcr citing William Muir's dcnunciation of thc QuVan hc states that 
even eariy Soviet scholars subjected Islam to thcir ideological biascs: N.A. 
Morozov for instance flamboyantly argued that "until thc Crusadcs Islam 
was indistinguishable from Judaism and ... only then did it receive its 

independent character, while Muhammad and the first Caliphs are mythical 
figures". 5 

Such passages may suggest to some that Lester's approach is purely 
academic; a curious reporter filing an objectivc rcport, In an intcrview with 
the ash-Skarq al-Awsat Daily 1 ' he denies any bad intenlions, hard feelings, 
or wrongdoing towards Muslims, insisting that he sought only the truth. 
Bui thcrcis 110 dotibt that hc has takcn pains lo coiloct his information 
strictly from the anti-traditionalist camp, heralding the arrival of secular 
reinterpretations of the Muslim Hoiy Book. He extensively quotes Dr. Gerd 
R. Joseph Puin, associated with the restoration of old Qur'anic fragments 
in San a 1 , Ycmen (which I have seen recently, and for which he and his team 
deserve due gratitude). Now, a bookbinder who completes a magnificent 
binding of a complex mathematical tcxt will not automatically ascend to 
the rank of mathematician, but becausc of his restoration of the pages of 
old manuscripts, Puin is fashioned into a world-authority on the Qur'an's 
entire history. 

"So many Muslims have this belief that everything between the two 
covers of the Koran is just God's unaltered word," [Dr. Puin] says, 
"They like to quote the textual work that sho%vs that the Bible has a 
history and did not fail straight out of the sky, but unti) now the Koran 
has been out of this diseussion. The only way to break through this 
wali is to prove that the Koran has a history loo, The San'a'Jragmenls willhelp 
us to do this." 1 

** Lester, p. 46. 

5 ibid, pp. 46-7. 

6 London, 18 February 1999. 

7 Lester, p. 44. Italics added. 


Lester's next point of reference is Andrew Rippin, Professor of Religious 
Studies at che University of Calgary, who states that: 

"Variant readings and verse orders are all very significant. Everybody 
agrees on that. These manuscripts $ay that the eariy hiscory of the Koranic 
text is miich more of an open question than many have suspected; the 
kxt ivas kss slabk, and therefore had kss authority, than has always been daimed."* 

Personally I find Prof. Rippin's comments baffling; on the one hand 
variant readings (or rather, multiple readings) have been recognised and 
commented on by Muslim scholars since the time of the Prophet. By no 
means are they a new discovery. On the other hand not even Puin (as far 
as I am aware) claims to have uncovered differences in the order of verses 
in his manuscripts, though his views on the Qur'an are in line with modern 

"My idea is that the Koran is a kind of cocktai! of texts that were not 
all understood even at the time of Muhammad," [Puin] says. "Many 
of them may even be a hundred years older than Islam itself. Even 
vvithin the Isiamic traditions there is a huge faody of contradktory 
information, including a significant Christian substrate; one can derive 
a whole Isiamic anli-histoiy from them if one wants." Patricia Crone 
defends the goals of this sort of thinking. "The Koran is a scripture 
with a history like any other - except that vve don't know this history 
and tend to provoke howls of protest when \ve study it." 9 

Arabic speakers have long held the Qur'an as a Book of unique beauty; 
even the idol-worshippers of Makkah were spellbound by its lyricism and 
failed to produce anything resembling it.'° Such qualities do not deter 
Puin from speaking disdainfully about it. 

"The Koran claims for itself that k is 'mubeen\ or 'clear'" he says. "But 
if you look at it, you will notice that even' fifth sentence or so simply 
doesn't make sense. Many Muslims - and Orientalists - will tell you 
otherwise, of course, but the fact is that a fifth of the Koranic text is 
jusi incomf/rehensible.'"" 

ibid, p. 45. Italics added. It must be noted that all these damaging judgements have 
been passed even before anyone has thoroughly studied these manuscripts. Such is often 
the nature of Orientalist scholarship. 
9 ibid, p. 46. 

10 See this work pp. 48-50. 

11 Lester,p. 54. 


G.R. Puin strings many words together but provides no examples, which 
is unfortunatc because I have absolutely no idca whcrc this incomprehcnsible 
fifth of the Our'an happens to bc. Lestcr thcn states tliat thc unwillingncss 
lo accept thc convetitional undcrs.tanding of the Qur'an only began in 
earnest in the 20th century; 12 he references Patricia Crone, quotcs R.S. 
Humphrcys, 111 and ends up at Wansbrough. The main thrust of Wansbrough's 
work is to establish two major points: firstly, that thc Qiir'an and hadlth 
were generated by various communities over the coursc of two centurics; 
and second, that Islamic doctrine was modelied on Rabbinical Jewish 
prototypes. Puin is apparentiy re-reading his works now, fbr his theories 
have been germinating slowly in certain circies even though "many Musiims 
understandably find thcm deeply oflensive," 14 Readcrs have known Cook, 
Crone and Wansbrough for a quarter of a century but the new face to 
emergc from this piece is Dr. Puin, whose findings form the backbone of 
Lcster's lengthy articlc. Somc of the Yemcni parchmcnts, dating back to 
thc first two centuries of Islam, 

[rcvcalj sniall bui intriguing abcrrations from thc Standard Koranic 
iext. Such aberrations, though not surprising to textual historians, are 
troublingly at odds with the orthodox Muslim bclicf tliat thc Koran as 
it has rcachcd us today is quitc simply the perfcct, timelcss, and unchanging 
Word of God. Tiw mainty secular effort to reintei/irel the Koran - in pan bascd 
on textual evidence such as that provided by the Yemcni fragments" - 
is disturbing and ofFensive to many Musiims, just as altcmpts to rcinterpret 
thc Biblc and thc life of Jcsus arc disturbing and offcnsive to many 
conservativc Christians. ... [Such secular retntcrpretation] can be none- 
theless very powerful and - as the histories of thc Rcnaissancc and thc 
Rcformaiion demonstrate - can lead to major social ckange. The Koran, 
after all, is currendy the woHd's most ideologically influential text. 16 

So the entire matter lies before us: 

• The Qur'an is currently the world's most ideologically influential 

• Many Musiims look to the Our'an as the Christians once did to 
the Bible, as God's unaltered Word. 

12 ibid, p. 54. 
" ibid, p. 55. 

14 ibid, p. 55. 

15 Jusi for ilir rrcord: in niy assi-ssiiU'iil llic 'f iuri i'e islam Ewrfrri Alit f i (Museum of 
Isl.unie Ari) in Islanbiil inay housc un cvrn grcatcr collcrlion ilmu that in Yeiiien. 
Unlbrluiialcly 1 was dcnicd acccss So this collection, so this nol ion must remain 
speculalivc, though according lo F. Deroche it houses about 210,000 folios ('Thc 
Qur'an of Amagur", Mamtscriptt of the Middte East, Leiden, 1990-91, vol. 5, p. 59]. 

16 Lestcr, p. 44. ftalies addcd. 


• The Yemeni fragments will help secular efForts to reinterpret the 

• Though offensive to coundess Muslims, this reinterpretation can 
provide the impetus for major soriai changes that mirror what Christianity 
experienced centuries ago. 

• These changes may be brought about by 'showing' that the Qur'an 
was iniiially a fluid text, one which the Muslim community contributed 
to and freely rearranged over several centuries, implying that the 
Qur'an was not as sacred then as it has now misguidedly become. 

The majority of Lester's references, those quoted or mentioned in his 
piece, are non-Muslim: Gerd;R.Joseph Puin, Bothmer, Rippin, R. Stephen 
Humphreys, Gunter Luling, Yehuda D. Nevo, Patricia Crone, Michael 
Cook, James Bellamy, William Muir, Lambton, Tolstov, Morozov and 
Wansbrough. He also spreads the glad tiding that, within the Islamic world, 
revisionism is on the move. In this category he names Nasr Abu Zaid, 
Taha Husain, 'Ail Dusht!, Muhammad Abdu, Ahmad Amin, Fazlur- 
Rahman, and finally Muhammad Arkoun and his fervent advice to battle 
orthodoxy from within." Scholars from the traditional school of Islamic 
thought are largely cast aside and ignored, with only Muhammad Abdu 's 
controversial name being included. 

But what is the revisionist school? Lester fails to define it clearly, so I 
will altow Yehuda Nevo, one of the authorities he quotes, to supply the 

The 'revisionist' approach is by no means monolithic... [but they] are 
united in denying historical validity to accounts based purely on 'faets' 
derived from the Muslim Uterary sources... The information they 
provide musi bc corroborated by the 'hard faets' of material remains.. . 

[The written sources} should always be checked against external evidence, 
and where the two conllict, the latter should be preferred. 1 " 

Because external evidence must necessarily be found to verify every 
Muslim account, absence of such corroboration helps to negaic the account 
and implies that the event never took place. 

fhat there is no evidence for it outside of the 'traditional account' thus 
becomes posirive evidence in suppon of the hypothesis that it did not 
nappen. A striking example is the lack of evidence, outside the Muslim 
literature, for the view that the Arabs were Muslim at the time of the 

17 «W, p. 56. 

18 I K 

/t/n» d , Cn and YD - N<?vo > "Mcthodological Approaches to Islamic Studies". Der 

^KBand 68, Heftl, 1991, pp. 89-90. 
'*'</, pp. 92. 


The outcome of this revisionist approach is a complete erasure of Islamic 
history, and the fabrication of another in which such events as the pre- 
Isiamic presence of paganism in Makkah, thejewish settlements near 
Madinah, and the Muslim victory over the Byzantine Empire in Syria 
are absolutely denied. In fact, revisionism argues that the paganism which 
afflicted Makkah prior to Islam is simply a fictitious back-projection of a 
pagan culture that thrived in southern Palestine. 20 

The central point, which must be made clear, is that there is a deiinitc 
motive behind all these 'discoveries'. Such findings do not exist in a vacuum 
or fail unexpectedly into the scholar's lap; they are the brainchild of a 
particular ideological and political arena, served up in the guise of break- 
through academic research. 21 

Attempts to distort Islam and its sacred texts are in fact as old as the 
religion itself, though the strategy behind these eflbrts has fluctuated 
according to the intended goal. Beginning with the rise of Islam and up 
unti! the 13th century A.H. (7th-I8th century C.E.), the first objective vvas 
to establish a protective fence around Christians to counteract the rapid 
advance of the new faith in Iraq, Syria, Palestine, Egypt, Libya etc. Among 
the notables of this period were John of Damascus (35- 1 33 A. H. /675-750 
C.E.), Peter the Venerable (1084-1 156 C.E.), Robert of Ketton, Raymond 
Lull (1235-1316 C.E.), Martin Luther (1483-1546 C.E.) and Ludovico 
Marraci (1612-1700 C.E.), tlieir pens dipped in unsophisticated yet wilful 
ignorance and falschood. Spurred by the changc in political forluncs and 
the start of colonialism from ihc 18th century onwards, the second phasc 
of attaek witncssed a shift in posture from defensive to ofTensive, aspiring 
to the mass conversion of Muslims or, at the least, of shattering any pride 
and resistance that emanated from their belief in Allah. 

Abraham Geiger (1810-1874) belongs squarely to this second period; 
his 1 833 dissertation, Was hal Mohammed aus den Judentum aufgenommen? 
("What did Mohammed take from Judaism?"), inaugurated the search 
for ulterior influences on the Qur'an and lead to innumerable books and 
artieles aimcd at branding it a poor BiblicaI counterfeit, rcplcte will) 

Future chapters will bring to light other names which have spearheaded 
this second phase, including Noldeke (1836-1930), Goldzihcr (1850- 1921), 
Hurgronje (1857-1936), Bergstrasser (1886-1933), Tisdall (1859-1928), 
JefTery {d. 1952) and Schacht (1902-1969). A third phase, beginning in 
the mid 20th century on the heels of the founding of Israel, has actively 

20 ibid, pp, 100-102. Sec also this work pp.337-8. 

21 Fbr more on this essential topic, refer to Chapter 19. 


soueht to purge all verses that cast an unfavourable light on Jews. Among 
the followers of this school are Rippin, Crone, Power, Calder and not 
least of all Wansbrough, whose theory, that the Qur'an and hadith are a 
community product spanning two centuries which were then fictitiously 
attributed to an Arabian prophet based on Jewish prototypes. is doubtlessly 
the most radical approach to ousting the Qur'an from its hallowed status. 
The previous decades have witnessed a quickened maturation of these 
last two phases, swelling in multi-faceted ways; a fairly recent scheme for 
assailing the Qur'an has been its reduction to a cultural text, one which 
is a by-product of a particular era and is therefore obsolete, rather than 
a Book that is meant for all nations at all times. 

Traditional Islam had not been resistant to the notion that the revelation 
refkcted the milieu in which it was revealed... But traditional Islam 
could never have made the leap from the idea of a scripture which 
engages the society in which it was revealed to the notion of one which 
is a product of it. For most Muslims in the modern world any significant 
move in this direction is still hardly an option, and it is unlikely to 
become one in the near foreseeable future. 22 

This was the inspiration for Nasr Abu Zaid (declared an apostate by 
Egypt's highest court and according to Cook, a 'Muslim secularist' 23 ), 
whose central belief about the Qur'3n was that, 

If the text was a message sent to the Arabs of the seventh century, then 
of neccssiry it was formulated iii a marmer which took for granted 

historically specific aspects of their language and culture. The Koran 
thus took shape in a human setting. It was a 'cultural product' - a phrase 
Abu Zayd used several times, and which was highhghted by the Court 
of Cassation when it determined him to be an unbeliever.-'' 

Approaching the Qur an from a textual \iewpoint appears benign enough 
'o the uninitiated; how insidious could concepts such as 'semanties' and 'textual 
linguistics' be? But the focus is not a study of the text itseif so much as it 
is a study of the evolution of the text, of how forms and structures within 
the Qur'an can be derived from 7th/8th century Arabic literature. 25 This 
essemially leads to a thorough secularisation and desanelifkation of the text. 

Michael Cook, The Koran: A MryShort Introduction, Oxibrd Univ. Press. 2000, p. 44, 
3 'oid, p. 46. 

^ *K p. 46. Italics added. 

JJ*.^ refer to Stefan Wild's (ed.) Preface to The Qur'an as Text, EJ. Brill, 
Qen ' '«6, p. vii-xi. 


Speaking of the Biblical scholar Van Buren, Professor E.L. Mascall statcs 
thac "[he] finds the guiding principle of the secularization of Christianity 

in the philosophical school which is commonly known as linguistic analysis." 26 
If such is the aim of linguistic analysis in Biblical studies, what other motive 
can tliere bc in applying it to the Quran? 

This being outside the realm of what is tolerable to Muslims, an alternate 
strategy is lo substitute the holy text with vernacular translations, then 
inflate their status such that they are heid on a par with the original Arabic. 
I n this way Muslim societies, three-quarters of which are non-Arab, can 
be severed from the actual revelations of Allah. 

Thcre is necessarily a mismatch between the Arabic of the Koran and 
the local language of primary education. . . The tension is exacerbaled by 
the fact that modernity brings an enhanced concern for the mletligibiiity 
of scriptures among the bclievers at large. As the Turkisli nalionalisi Ziya 
Gskalp {d. 1924) pul it: "A country in whose schools the Koran is read 
in Turkish is one in which everyonc, child and aduk, knows God's 
commands". 27 

Aftcr deseribing the futile Turkish cfibrts to displace ihe actual Qur'an 
with a Turkish translation, Michael Cook concludes, 

To date, the non-Arab Muslim world shows little sign of adopting the idea 
of a vernacular seripture in the marmer of sixteenth-century Protestantism 
or twentiath-ccntury Catholicism. 28 

If all other stratagems are left in tatters, one last resort remains. As 
deseribed by Cook: 

In a modern Western society it is more or less axiomatic that other 
people's religious beliefs (though not, of course, all forms of religiously 
motivated behaviour) are to be tolerated, and perhaps even respected. 
Indeed it would be considered ill mannered and parochial to refer to 
the religious vicws of others asfalse and one 's own as true... the very 
notion of absolute Irulii in matters of religion sounds hopekssly out of date. 1 1 
is, however, a notion tliat ims central lo traditional Islam, as it was to 
traditional Christianity; and in recent centuries it has survived bettcr 
in Islam. 29 

26 E.L. Mascall, The Secularization of Christianity, Darton, Longman & Todd Ltd., 
London, 1965, p. 41. Dr. Paul M. Van Buren is the author of "The Secular Mcaning 
of the Gospel", which is bascd on the analysis of Biblical lunguagc [ilrid, p. 4 1 .J 

27 M. Cook, The Koran: A Very Short Introduclion, p. 26. Inicrcsttngly Ziya Gokalp was 
a Donma Jew who converted to Islam (M. Qutb, al-Mustashriqfm iva al-Islam, p. I98|. 

'*" M. Cook, Thr Koran: A Very Short Inlnuhution, p. 27. 

2!i ihU n 'i'* A»HtF?;isrc :»rJH**H. Cook 's wurtis. 'tlatt was coinraJ (o Jrutlitroital Islam'. 


Cook writes this under the heading "Tolerating the beliefs of others", 
but what he expounds instead is umversalism. Imbued with tolerance, Islam 
maintains clear and firm injunctions governing the rights of non-Musltms; 
this is well known. Cook's thrust here is instead about doubt and relativism: 
the notion that all religions are equally valid because to think otherwise 
is to betray oneself as provincial and ignorant. This, sadly, is an easier 
pitfali for many eontemporary, ill-educated Muslims. And as a corollary 
to this idea, "There [is] a nearly unanimous rejection of any attempt to 
distinguish between a non-Muslim and a Muslim scholarship in present- 
day Qur'anic studies." 30 

A rising chorus of Western scholars now come forvvard to assail the 
traditional tafsir literature, 31 demanding something altogether new. Arguing 
for the exclusive right to interpret the holy text, many Orientalists dismiss 
earlier Muslim vvritings on this topic "on the grounds that Muslims - 
being dupes, as it wcre, of the notion that [the Q_ur'Sn} vvas Scripture - 
of course could not understand the text so well as could a Western 
scholar free from that limitation". 3 - Basettt-Sani and Youakim Moubarac 
both insist that tafsir bt made compatible with 'Christian truth', a sentiment 
endorsed by W.C. Smith and Kenneth Cragg. 33 This last, an Anglican 
bishop, urges Muslims to serap the verses revealed in Madinah (with their 
emphasis on the political and legal aspects of Islam) in favour of their 
Makkan counterparts, which are generally more involved with basic issues 
of monotheism, leaving precious little of the religion intaet aside from the 
verbal pronouncement that there is no god except Allah. 14 

All these concepts are meant to shake the already-slender faith of wary 
Muslims, arming them with Orientalis! barbs and setting them out to 
question and dismiss the very Book which they have inherited, in the 
process becoming more suscepttble to Western ideology. Toby Lester's 
artiele is just another card in this deck, and the tales behind the Yemeni 
fragments simply another bait. Dr. Puin himself has in faet denied all the 
nndings that L^ster aseribes to him, with the exception of occasional 
d'fferences in the spelling of some words. Here is a part of Puin's original 

,. . Ste ^ an WiM (ed.), The Qitr'an as 1i.\t, p. x. The original contains Svas' instead of 
's , but changing the tense seems valid given that nothing else has changed. In faet, 

uslim scholarship conceming the Qur'an is generally relegated to second-class 
s atus in Western circles, since the former espouses tradhionalism while the latter 
seeks revisionism. 

*J E **8«s>s of the Qur'an. 

53 p' C ' Smi,h > " The True Meaning of Scripture", JJMES, vol. 1 1 (1980), p. 498. 

Anril tor. r , FOld ' " The Q. ur ' an as Sacred Scripture", Muslim ilvrld, vol. bocviii, no. 2, 
F™ iyy3,p p . 151-53. 

A n„->, ***„' "^^king 'Revelation' as a Precondition for Reinterpreting the Our'an: 
Qj,rMlcft «n»eah*",JiKi.-93.1l4. 


Jetter - which he wrote to al-Qadl Isma'il al-Akwa 1 shordy after Lester's 
article - with its translation. 35 

\vf>,, <^y fc^^i,/^ 1 

F^gare /./ Pari of Dr. Puin's original klter to al-Qadi al-Akwa' 

The important thing, thank God, is that these Yemcni Qur'anic fragments 

do not difTer from those found in museums and libraries elsewhere, 

with the exoeption of details that do not touch the Qur'Sn itself, but are 

rather diflerences in the way words are spelled. This phenomenon is 

well-known, even in the Qur'an published in Cairo in which is written: 

Ibrhlm ((►=*/') next to Ibrhm ((•-•.rf 1 ) 

Quran (O'y) next to Qrn {o/) 

Sirnakan (^U—.) next to Simhum ((«-*■•*-) etc. 

In the oldest Yemeni Quranic fragments, for example, the phenomenon 

of not writing the vowel alifh rather coramon. 

This deflates the entire controversy, dusting away the webs of intrigue 
that were spun around Puin's discoveries and making them a topic unworthy 
of further speculation. 3 ** But let us suppose for the sake of argument that 
the findings are indeed true; what then is our response? Here we face three 

a) What is the Quran? 

b) If any complete or partial manuscripts are uncovered at present or 
in the future, claiming to be Qur'an but differing from what we now 
have in our hands, what impaet would this liave on the Qur'anic 

c) Finally, who is entitled to be an authority on the Our'an? Or in 
general terms, to wrile aboul Islam and all its religious and historical 

35 For the Arabic tcxt of his complete letler, sec the Yemcni newspaper, alh-Thawra, 
issue 24. 1 1 . 1 4 1 9 A.H./ 1 1 .3. 1 999. 

36 I will cover Puin's discoveries and claims in pp. 314-8. 


These will be pondered over the course of this work, co reveal not only 
the following answers bu t also the logic which stipulates them: 

a) The Qur'an is the very Word of Allah, His final message to all 
humanity, revealed to His final messenger Muhammad and trans- 
cending all limkations of time and space. It is preserved in its original 
tongue without any amendments, additions or deletions, 

b) There will never be a discovery of a Our'an, fragmented or whole, 
which differs from the consensus text circulating throughout the 
world. If it does differ then it cannot be regarded as Qur'5n, because 
one of the foremost conditions for accepting anything as such is 
that it conform to the text used in 'Uthman's Mushaf.' 57 

c) Certainly anyone can write on Islam, but only a devout Muslim 
has the kgitimate prerogative to write on Islamic and its related 
subjects. Some may consider this biased, but then who is not? Non- 
followers cannot claim neutrality, for their writings swerve depending 
on vvhether Islam's tenets agree or disagree with their personal 
beliefs, and so any attempts at interpretation from Christians, Jews, 
atheists, or non-practicing Muslims must be unequivocally discarded. 
I may add that if any proffered viewpoint clashes with the Prophet's 
own guidelines, either e.vplicitly or otherwisc, it becomes objec- 
tionable; in this light even the writings of a devout Muslim may be 
rejected if they lack merit. This selectivity lies at the very heart of 
Ibn Slrin's golden rule {d. 1 10 A.H./728 C.E.): 

This knowledge constitutes your deen {religion;. so be wary of 
whom you take your religion from. M 

Some may argue that Muslims do not have any sound arguments with 
which to counteract non-Mus!im scholarship, that for them the case is 
oased enttrely on faith and not on reason. I will therefore bring forward 
m >' arguments against their findings in fitture chapters. though I will first 
begin by recounting some passages from early Islamic history as a prelude 
to an in-depth look at the Qur'an. 

'•<■- the skeleton of the text which may show some variations in vowel writing, see 
«i <--hapters 9, 10 and 1 1 . We must nevertheless take into consideration that there 
not °ibi 25O '°° man "scripts of the Quran scattered al) over the globe [see p. 316 
and ih • " com P arm S tnem K is always possible to fmd copying mistakes here 

auch er * ; , thlS i$ an exam P>e of human faUibiliry. and has been recognised as sueh by 
occuff $ haVe writWn ««ensively on tbe subject of "unintentional errors." Such 

38 InT^ ^ nn0t ** used to P rov « an r corruption (_«*>) within the Qur an. 
Hurair Td-R f: ' ibban hi,s cr€ <<"ed this saying to other scholars as well, e.g. Aba 
circa 100 ^ A ' H "'' IbrahIl T3 an-Nakha'i {d. 96 A.H.), ad-Dahhak b. al-Muzahim (d. 
Hibban t V t ' -'"^ asan a, - Ba 5 r > (^ 110 A.H.) and Zaid b. Aslam [d. 1 36 A.H.). [Ibn 



Chapter Two 


I. Pre-Isiamk Arabia 

i. The Geo-Political Corsdition 

Arabia. Situated near the crossroads of three continents, at the heart of the 
Old World, the Arabian Peninsula juts out into one of the most recognisable 
features on the globe. Bordcred by the Red Sea to its west, the Persian Guif 
to its east, the Indian Ocean to the south and Syria and Mesopotamia to 
the north, it is famously arid but for the vegetation of the SarawSt Mountains, 
vvhich anehor the western coastline. Despite the scarciry of Iiquid there 
are a fcw sources of underground water available, and these have produced 
oases which have iong served as the backbone for human settlements and 

The Arabian Peninsula has been populated since the eariiest days of 
recorded history, the inhabitants of the Persian Gulf actualiy estabhshing 
city-states prior to the third millennium C.E. 1 Many seholars consider this 
region to be the cradle of all Semitic races, though there is by no means a 
full consensus. Theories on this cradle include: Babylonia (the opinion of 
Von Kremer, Guide and Hommel); 3 the Arabian Peninsula (Sprenger, Sayce, 
DeGoeje, Brockelmann, and others); 3 Africa (Noldeke and others};' Amuru 
(A.T. Clay); 3 Armenia (John Peaters); 6 the southern part of the Arabian 
Peninsula (John Philby); 7 and Europe (Ungnand). 8 

Phillip Hitti, in his work, Hislory of the Arabs, says: 

"Though the term 'semitic' has of late come to be used in the West 
more generally \vith reference to thejews because of their concentration 
m America, it is more appropriately applicable to the inhabitants of 

1 Jawad ',\Ji, al-Mufassatji Tarikh al-'Arab Ogblal- Islam, i:569. 

2 ibid, i: 230-3 L 

3 ibid, 1:231-232. 

4 '*«/, 5:235. 
3 ibid, i;238. 
8 ibid, i:238. 

7 ibid, i:232-233. 

8 'Ki:238. 


Arabia who, more than any other group of people, have retained the 
Scmitic characteristics in their physical features, manners, customs, 
habit of' thought and language. The peoplc of Arabia have remained 
virtually the same throughout all thc recorded ages." 9 

Most hypotheses regarding racial origins emanate from linguistic research 
(and occasionally the information supplied by the OT), 10 and much of this 
is neither scientific nor historically accurate. For example, the OT includes 
among nations of Semitic stock many who are not Semites, such as the 
Elamite and Ludim, whiist discarding many which are Semitic, such as 
the Phoenicians and Cannanites." Given the myriad vievvpoints, I subscribe 
to the notiorj that the Semitic races emerged from within Arabia. As to the 
question of who is or is not Semitic, Arabs and Israelites share a common 
ancestry through Abraham. 12 

U. Ibrahim and Makkah 

At a fbced time in history Allah bestowed on Ibrahim (Abraham) a son in 
his old age, Isma'il (Ishmael), whose mother Hajar (Hagar) - supposedly 
a slave - was a gift tendered by Pharos to Sarah. Isma'il's birth stirred 
great jealousy in Sarah 's heart, and she demandcd that Ibrahim cast out 
this 'bondwoman' and her son. 13 Faced with this domcstic squabble, hc 
brought Hajar and Isma'il to the barren land of Makkah, to a harsh sun- 
beaten valley bereft of inhabitants, food, and even wa'ter. As he began thc 
trek home, Hajar gazed at the emptiness around her in bewilderment, 
and asked him thrice whether he was deserting them. He made no reply. 
Then she asked whether this was the command of Aliah, and he replied; 
yes. Hearing this she said, "Then He will not abandon us." And indeed 
He did not abandon them, causing the waters of Zamzam to eventually 
gush out of the sand at the infant Isma'il's fect; this spring made possiblc 
the first settlemcnts in the area, with Jurhum bcing thc earlicst tribc to 
settle there. 14 

9 M. Mohar Ali, Sirat an-Nabi, vol. IA, pp. 30-3 1 , quoting FK. Hitti, History of the 
Arabs, pp. 8-9. 

10 Jawad 'Ali, al-MuJassal, i:223. 

11 m, i:224. 

12 ibid, i:630. Thc OT dcclarcs that both Arabs andjcws are descendants of Shem, 
son of Noah. 

' s Aing James iirsion. Genesis 21:10. 

1 '' Al-Bukli5ri, Salafi, al-Anbiya', hadilli tios. 33C4-65 (with Ibu Hajar's commcntajy). 


Several years later Ibrahim, on a visit to his son, informed him of a 

&£ jfcfi O&l ii> ^' a <# U) 3* # J^ T ^ f? ^ > 

U5 («s '&&*$ oi <"' '^- oj U^^- j# u O^T ^& 3ii -jj£ 
bi V.jlT Jjii i» jgs i*3j£ o' '«£^3 ;^ o*?* JJ . '*^ ^^ 

" 77«w, w/ktj (% Jonj ratoW ((/w age of serious) work with him, (Ibrahim) 
said: 'O my son! J see in a dream that I ojferyou in sacrifue: now see what 
isyour view!' (The son) said: 'O myfather! Do asyou are commanded: you 
willfind me, if Allah so wills, one practicwg Patuna and Constancy! . . . And 
Wt ransomed him with a moment&us sacrifice." 16 

On the hcels of this incident, Ibrahim and Isma'll received a divine 
commission to establish the first sanctuary on earth dedicated for the sole 
worship of Allah. 

The first House (of worship) appointedfor peopk was that al Bakka;full 
of blessing and of guidancefor all kinds of beings" 

Bakka is another name for Makkah, and in that rocky vale both father 
and son concerted their efibrts towards the construction of the sacred 
Ka'ba, with the piety of one whose gruelling ordeal had just been resolved 
by the Almighty Himself. Upon its completion Ibrahim made the following 

*V^' & ?£'m rp\ Cs$ g-liT ^Jt « Jdf yi?-5 ijiSJi \yLA 

O our Lord! I have made some of my offspring to dweU in a valley without 
cultivation, by Your Sacred House; m order, O our Lord, thal they may establish 
regular Prayer: Sofitt the hearls of some among men with love toward them, 
andfeed them with Fruits: So that they maygive thanks." 

15 Qur'5n 37:102-!07. 

The translation of verses 103-6 has been dropped for brevity. 

17 Qur'an3:96. 

18 Qur'5n 14:37. 


Soon the roots of this supplication had visibly blossomed and Makkah 
was no longer desolate, gaining life in the presence of Aliah's noble sanctuary, 
the waters of Zamzam, and a burgeoning population. It eventually became 
a central junction on the trade routes to Syria, Yemen, Ta'if and Nejd, 13 
which is why "from the time of Aetlius Gallus down to Nero all the emperors 
cherished the desire of extending their influence to the important station 
of Mecca and made tentative efforts in this direction." 20 

Thcre were naturally other population movements within the Arabian 
Peninsula. Of note were the Jewish refugees who, many centuries later, 
introducedjudaisrn to Arabia during tlie Babytonian Exile, settluig in Yathrib 
(present-day Madinah), Khaibar, Taima 1 and Fadak in 587 B.C.E. and 70 
C. E. 21 Nomadic Arab tribes were also in flux. Banu Tha'liba (the tribe of 
Tha'liba) from the Qahtanite stock also settled in Madinah; among their 
descendants were the tribes of Aws and Khazraj, later dually known as 
al-Ansar 2 '*' (Supporters of the Prophet). Banu Haritha, later known as Banu 
Khuza'a, setded in Hejaz and displaced the earlier inhabitants, Banujurhum,*' 
becoming the custodians of the House in Makkah. Thcy were subscquently 
rcsponsiblc for imroducing idol worship.* 1 Banu Lakhm, anothcr clan of 
Qah(unitc origin, setllcd in Hlra (present-day KGlu in Iraq) wherc ihey 
lounded a IhiIKt slalc lietween Arabia and IVrsia (r. 200-(>0'2 t:.l'..).- r ' Banu settled in lower Syria and lbundcd the Ghassanid Kingdom, a 
buffer state between Byzantine and Arabia, which lasted lili 614 C.E. 26 
Banu Tayy occupied the Tayy Mountains while Banu Kinda settled in 
central Arabia.' 27 The common feature of all these tribes was their lineage 
to Ibrahim through Isma'll. 28 

This seetion is not meant to serve as a history of Makkah prior to 
Islam, bui as a starting point for the closest anceslral family member of 
the Prophet who had a direct bearing on his life. For the sake of brevity 

19 M. Hamiduliah, "The City State of Mecca", Istamic Cullure, vol. 12 (1933), p. 258. 
Cited thereafter as The City Siak of Mecca. 

20 ibid, p. 256, quoting Lammens, La Mtcout a La Vielk it L'Hegire (pp. 234, 239) and 

21 Jaw3.d 'Ali, ai-MufassalJi Tarikh al-'Arab Qabl al- Islam, i:658; ibid, i:614-I8 contain 
very important information on jewish settlements in Yathrib and Khaibar. 

22 M. Mohar Ali, Sirat an-Nabl, vol. J A, p. 32. 

23 iWrf.vol. IA, p. 32. 

24 Ibn Qutaiba, al-Ma'arif, p. 640. 

25 M. Mohar Ali, Sini au-JVabi, vol. IA, p. 32. 

26 ife/,voi. IA, p. 32. 

27 ibid, vol. IA, p. 32. 
2B ibid, w*. IA, p. 32. 



I will pass over numerous details and pick up the trail with Qusayy, the 
great-great-great grandfather of the Prophet. 

iii. Qusayy Gains Full Control of Makkah 

Some two hundred years prior to the Prophet's birth, Qusayy, a keenly 
intelligent, powerful and highly administrative chieftain, ascended within 
the ranks of Makkah's political scene. Taking advantage of the Byzantine 
interest in Makkah, he acquired their help in securing fuli control of the city 
while successfully remaining outside Byzantine influence and negiecting 
their regional interests. M 



'Abdul-Dar 'AbdManSf 

(h.*n< 430CE.) 







'Abd Shams 



Ih-rii c. <f<JI (.:£.) 

Abu Satfi 




Miikammad {rnl 
i Wil v. 371* (:.!■.) 

Figure 2.1: A bruf genealog)- of Qitsayy. 

Qusayy married Hubba biiu Hulail, the daughter of the Khuza'ite 
chieftain of Makkah; this chieftain's death altowed him to assume further 

29 Ibn Qutaiba, ol-Ma'arif, pp. 640-41. The Byzantine Empire had a new prospect 
of exiending their influence on Makkah a few generadons later vvhen a Makkan, 'Uthman 
ibu al-Huwairith ol" the Asad clan, embraced Christianity The Emperor placed a crown 
on his head and sent him to Makkah with Ultase, ordering the Makkans to accept 
him as their king, But even his own tribe refused to accept him. [The City State of Mecca, 
pp. 256-7, quoting as-Suhaill [Raudul imf i:146) atid others]. 


power and pass custody of the House into the hands of his desccndants. 30 
The tribe of Quraish, scattered throughout the region, was fmally brought 
together in Makkah and forged into a single unity under his leadership. 31 
Figure 2. 1 (above) shows Qusayy 's genealogy in brief. 32 

ia Makkah: A Tribal Society 

Though developed as a city-state, Makkah remained a tribal society up until 
its conquest by the Prophet Muhammad. The mainstay of Arab society 
around which atl social organisation revolved, the tribe was based on the 
concept that the sons of any one clan were brothers and shared the same 
blood. An Arab woutd not have understood the idea of nation-statehood 
unless it was within the context of the nation-state of the tribe, 

"which was a nation-state of relationship binding the family to the tribe, 
a state based on flesh and bones, on flesh and blood, i.e. a nation-state 
based on lineage. it was family conneclions that bound together the 
individuais in the state and gathercd them into one unit. This was for 
ihcm the religion of the state and its agrecd and acknowlcdgcd law." 33 

Every tribal member constituled an asset for ihe eniire tribe, so that 
the presence of an accomplished poet, an intrepid warrior, or someone of 
famed hospitality within the tribe, generated honour and credit for all those 
of his lineage. Among the prime duties of every stalwart clan was defence, 
not only of its own members but also those who temporarily came under 
its umbrella as guests, and in protecting the latter there was always much 
honour to be gained. Thus Makkah, the city-state, welcomcd pcople who 
either sought to attend fairs, or perform pilgrimage,'" or pass through with 
their caravans. Serving this demand required security and the appropriate 

30 Ibn Hisham, iS>», ed. by M. Saqqa, I. al-Ibyan and 'A. Shalabi, 2nd edition, 
Mustala al-Babt al-Halabi, publishers, Cairo, 1375 (1955), vol. 1-2, pp. 117-8. This 

book has been printed into cwo parts, part one covers volumes 1-2, while part two 
covers volumes 3-4. The page numbering o( each part runs continuously. 

31 Ibn Qutaiba, al-Ma'arif, pp. 640-41. 

32 Ibn Hisham, Sita, vol. 1-2, pp. 105-108. For the dates in the chart, see Nabia 
Abbott, The Rise of tiujforth Arabic Scripl and ils K'urank Developmenl, wilh afull Descripiion 
of ihe Kutan Manmcripis in ihe Oriental Inslitutt, The Universily of Chicago Press, Chicago, 
1938, pp. 10- 1 1 . Abbott has mentioned some disagreement among Orientalists about 
the dates; 

33 Ibn Hisham, Sra, vol 3-4, p. 315. 

34 By this time the Ka'ba was surrounded and housed with hundreds of idols. 


facilities, and so the following institutions were set up in Makkah (some of 
them by Qusayy himseif): 35 Nadwa (city council), Maskara (advice council), 
Qiyada 0eadership), Sadana (administration of the sanctuary), Hijaba (gate- 
keeper of the Ka'ba), &?5ya (supplying water to the pilgrims), 'Imaratul-bait 
(ensuring that the sanctity of the Ka'ba was not violated), Ifida (those who 
permitted the first departure in a ceremony), ljaz<i>Nasi' (the institution of 
adjusting the calendar), Qubba (pitching a tent to coliect donations for some 
public emergency), A'inna (reins of the horse), Rafada (tax for feeding the 
poor pilgrims), Amwat muhajjara (offerings to the Sanctuary), Aysar, Ashndg 
(assessing the value of pecuniary liabilities), Huktima, Sifarak (ambassador- 
ship), '£^a^(standard-bearer), £#«?(banner) and Hultwn-un-nqfr(mobilis<iuon 

v. From Qusayy to Muhammad 3£ 

These sundry duties became the responsibility of Qusayy's sons. Descendants 
of 'Abdul-DSr for example retained the custody of the Ka'ba, the council- 
hall and the right of mounting the banner on its staff in case of war. 36 'Abd- 
Manaf managed the foreign relations "with the Roman authorities, and the 
Ghassanide prince. Hashim [son of 'Abd-ManafJ himseif concluded a treaty, 
and he is said to have received from the Emperor a rescriph authorizing the 
Quraish to travel through Syria in security." 37 Hashim and his party maintained 
the offiee of providing food and water to the pilgrims; his wealth allovved 
him to entertain pilgrims with princely magnificence.- 18 

While trading in Madinah, Hashim met and became enamoured of a 
Khazarite noblewoman, Salma bint 'Amr. He married her and returned 
with her to Makkah, but with the onset of pregnancy she chose to journey 
back to Madinah and there gave birth to a son, Shaiba. Hashim died in 
Gaza on one of his trade journeys, 3fl entrusting his brother Muttalib to take 
care of his son 40 who was still with his mother. Travelling to Madinah for 
this purpose, Muttalib found himseif embroiled in a fight with Hashim 's 
widow over the custody of young Shaiba, which he eventually won. With 

35 The City State of Mecca, pp. 261-276. 

36 Waiiam Muir, The Life of Mahomet, 3rd edition, Smith, Elder, & Co., London, 
1 894, p. xcvi. 

37 ibid, p. xcvii. 
58 tbid, p. xcvi. 

39 Ibn Hisham, Sim, vol. 1-2, p. 137. 

40 ibid, vol. 1-2, p. 137. 


uncle and nephew returning to Makkah, people mistook the little boy to 
be the slave'(^*: 'Abd) of Muttalib. Hence Shaiba's nickname: 'Abdul- 
Muttalib. 41 » 

The death of his uncle meant that 'Abdul-Muttalib inherited the duties 
of Si<jd_ya and Rqfada. vi And having rediscovcrcd Zamzam, vvhose vvatcrs 
had beeii buried and forgotten beneath the weight of sand and neglect for 
many years, he gained such prominence and dignity that he effectively 
became the chief of Makkah. In earlier years hc had made a vow that if 
granted ten sons, he would saerifice one of them to an idol. Now, having 
been btcssed with titis number, 'Abdul-Muttalib sought to fulfil his pledge 
by consulting with the Ailam n to find out whom to saerifice. The name of 
his youngest (and favorite) son 'Abdullah appeared. Human sacrifices being 
distastcful to Quraish, they conferred with a soolhsayer wlio revealcd that 
'Abdullah could be ransomed with camels. The Azlam were consultcd 
again, and the boy's lifc was spared for the price of one hundred camels. 

Delighled with this turn of evenis, 'Abdul-Muttalib took his son 'Abdullah 
to Madinah to visit some relatives. There 'Abdullah married Amina, tlie niece 
of Wuhaib who was their host and of the same ancestral tribc (Qusayy's 
brother foundcd Banfi Zuhra, Wuhaib's clan). 'Abdullah enjoyed the 
domestic comforts of homc life for somc Umc bc.fore embarking on a trade 
roule to Syria. Along the way he fell ill, retur ned to Madinah and died. 
By Uicn Amina had already conccivcd Muhammad. 

w'. The Religious Conditions in Arabia 

In the time preceding Muhammad's prophethood, Arabia was thoroughly 
antagonistk to any religious reformation. For centuries the cult of pagan 
worship had withstood both the presence of Jewish settlements and foreign 
attempts at evangcSisation from Syria and Egypt. WilHam Muir, in his The 
Life of Mahomet, argues that this Jewish presence helped to neuiralise the 
spread of the gospel in two ways; first, by establishing itself in the northern 
frontiers of Arabia, and thus forming a barrier between the Christian 
expanses to the north and the pagan stronghold to the south. His second 
argumenCis that Arabian idolatry had fbrmed a sort of compromise with 
Judaism, incorporating enough of its legends to diminish the exotic appea! 
of Christian ity. 44 I do not concur at all with his theory. What the Arabs 

41 ibid,v(A. 1-2, p. 137. 
w ibid, vol. 1-2, p. 142. 

43 A procedure tbr pieking a caudidate raiidomly, usiiig divining arrows that were 
kept iindcr tlic proHTliou of a cenain deity. 

44 William Muir, The Life of Mahonut, pp. lxxxii-lxxxiii. 


professed in fact was a distorted remnant of Ibrahim and Isma'll's mono- 
theistic faith, corrupted b} - centuries of superstition and ignorance. The 
legends which the Jews and Arabs held in common were, therefore, a 
result of their common ancestry. 

The Christianky of the 7th century was itself mired in corruption and 
mvth, caught in a state of complete stagnation. Formally submitting Arabia 
to Christianity-vvoiild have required, not religious persuasion, bui the political 
coercion of a superior Christian power. 45 No such power bore down upon 
the pagan Arabs, and idolatry held Arabia in the tightest of grips. Five 
centuries of Christian evangelism had produced meagre results: converts 
were limited to the Banu Harith of Najran, the Banu Hanifa of Yamama, 
and some of the Banu Tayy at Tayma'.' w In these five centuries, historical 
records do not show any incidence involving the persecution of Christian 
missionaries. This is vastly different from the fate which awaited Muhammad 
and bis earliest followers in Maltkah, revealing perhaps that while Christianity 
was viewed as a tolerable nuisance, Islam was deemed overtly dangerous 
to the institutional fabric of pagan Arabia. 

2. Prophet Muhammad nfi3B.H.-llA.H./571-632<;.F..} ,7 

Coveiing the lifc of the Prophet of Islam is an immense undertaking, one 
that can easily fiil volumes; copious literature is readily available on this 
topic for every intercsted reader. The aim of this scction is somewhat 
different. In upcoming chapters we will discuss some of the prophets of 
Israel, including Jesus, and witness both their hostile reception by the 
Israclites and the rapid corruption of their divine teachings. Hcre, in lieu 
of retracing paths already carved out by other writers, I will simply offer 
a brief synopsis to complemcnt such future references to Moses and Jesus. 

45 Urid, p. Ixxxiv. This aiso hoicis true for more receni times, when Christianity was 
often advanced by dini of Colonialist coercion. 

46 ibid, pp. lxxxiv-lxxxv. 

47 The Christian date is appro.timate. lnvented using the model of the Islamic 
Calendar, u did not come into official public use unlil at leasi tcn centuries alter Jesus 
imost tikely more), passing through several modifirations. The Gregorian calendar as 
pvesently used goes back only to [ 582 C.E./990 A.H. when i( was adopted by the then- 
Catholic countries on the decree of Pope Gregory XIII, in a Papai Bull on 24 February 
1582. {See Khalid Baig, "The Millennium Bug", Impact International, London, vol. 30, 
"°- 1 < Jaiiuary 2000, p. 5] . Modern writers project back the dates fictkiously, thus creating 
many problems in the dating of events. 


i. The Birth of Muhammad SS 

As mencioncd carlicr 'AbduIIah, Muhammad's lalhcr, dicd whilc Amina 
was in pregnancy. Muhammad was therefore born into precarious circum- 
stances, a member of a poor but vcry noble family. Soon bereft of his mother 
as well, he became an orphan at the age of six and took to working as a 
shepherd in Makkah's barren landscape. 48 Following in the footstcps of 
Quraishi fashion he began engaging in trade, and here his iniegrity and 
success as a merchant attractcd the attention of an older and particularly 
intclligcnt rich widow, Khadija, who cvcntttalty married him. l! ' Muhammad 
was renowned throughout the city for this honcsty and integrity in a)l 
matters; quoting Ibn Ishaq: "Prior to the revclations, Quraish labcllcd the 
Prophet as 'the trustworthy one' (ovS>'': amin)"/"" 

'd. Muhammad %, the Amin 

There came a time when Quraish concurred on the necessity of rcbuilding 
the Ka'ba; aliocating the work among themselves, each sub-clan gathering 
sloncs and buih a portion of the structurc by ilself. As the construetion 
reached the Black Stone (i.»-'*! 1 j***- [ ) a controversy ignited. Every sub-clan 
quarreiled fbr the sole honour of depositing the Black Stone into its appro- 
priate corner, to the point where alliances were quickly formed and hostilities 
appeared inevitable. Abu Umayya, who at the time was the oldest man in 
Quraish, urged them to consent to the judgment of the first man entering 
the gate of the Holy Sanctuary, and they approved. It so happened that 
the first to enter was none other than Muhammad. Seeing him Quraish 
exclaimed, "Here comes the amin, v/e are pleased with him {as a judge}. 
Here comes Muhammad." When he was infbrmed of the dispute he asked 
for a eloak. He then took the Black Stone, placed it on the eloak, and told 
each sub-clan to clutch a side of the garment and lift it collectively. This 
they did, and once they were at the designated spot he raised the Black 
. Stone and set it in with his own hands. With the controversy dissipated 
to everyone's satisfaetion, the construetion continued without incident. 31 

+« AJ-Bukhari, Sal/Vf, ljara:2. 

« Ibn Hisham, Sim, vol. 1-2, pp. 187-189 

50 ibid, vol. 1-2, p. 197. 

51 m, vol. 1-2, pp. 196-7.- 


iii. Muhammad M the Messenger of Allah 

Blessed with an ideal nature and a hatred of idolatry, Muhammad never 
prostrated before Quraish's idols nor took part in any of their polytheistic 
rituals. Instead he worshipped one God, in whatever manner he thought 
best, his complete illiteracy precluding any knowledge of Jewish or Ghristian 
practices. Soon the time was ripe for his comrnission as Prophet and Messenger, 
and Allah prepared him for this task gradually. First he started beholding 
<rue visions. 52 He noticed a rock saluting him;' 3 he also observed the Archangel 
Jibril (Gabriel) calling him from the sky by his name, 54 and observed a 
light. 55 . • 

'A'isha reports that the prelude of prophethood for Muhammad were 
his perfect dreams: for six months he witnessed visions so accurate that they 
seemed to materialise from the very fabric of reality. Then suddenly the first 
revelation descended upon him whOe he was secluded in the cave of Hira 1 ; 
Jibril appeared before him and repeatediy asked him to read, countering 
Muhammad's insistence that he was illiterate by continuing the same 
demand, till at last he divulged to him the first verses of Sura al-'Aka'} 6 

57 i .;;?:■: jfc £ C frZ'fJk :£: JSKj & tS$$t 

"Read in the name ofyour Lori and Cherisker, who created. Created man, 
out of a leech-like cbt. Proclaim! Andyour Lord is Most Bountijul. He Who 
kitight (the use of) the Pen. Tatight man that whkh he knew not. " 

This was the first descent of the wahy (^-) '■ revelation), the very beginning 
of the Qur'3n. 

And so, une.xpectedly at the age of forty, Allah summoned Muhammad 
with a simple message, sharply outlined and crystal clear: a*a «W ^i «3j v 
«W Jj-_, ('Tliere is no god except Allah, and Muhammad b His Messenger*). 
And with this he was given a living eternal miracle, something to satisfy 
the intellect, capture the heart, and give rebirth to stifled souls; the Holy 

52 Ibn Hajar, Fathui Ban, i: 19; al-Bukhari. Sahih, Bad' at-\Vahy:2. 

53 Muslim, Sahih, Fada'ika, p. 1782. 

'Unvah b. az-Zubair, al-Magha*t, compiled by MM. al-A'zaml, Maktab at-Tarbiya 
al-'Arabia Liduwal al-Khallj, Ist edition, Riyad, 1401 (1981), p. 100. 
^ 5 Ibn Hajar, Fathu! Ban, i:23. 
36 SDra 96, see al-Bukhari, Sahih. Bad' al-Wahy. 
57 Qur'an 96:1-5. 


iv. Abu Bakr and his Acceptance of Islam 

The first mart to embrace Islam outside the Prophct's lamily was Abu 
Bakr ibn Quhafa (later nicknamed as-Stddiq), an experienced and vvell- 
rcspcctcd merchant, and a dcvotcd fricnd of the Proplict. Hc askcd him 

one day, "Is it true vvhat Quraish claims regarding you, O Muhammad? 
That you havc forsaken our gods, bclittled our minds and disbelieved in 
the waya of our Ibrclathcrs?" "Abu Bakr," hc replied, "1 ani the Prophet of 
Allah and His Messenger, I was sent to convey His message.... I call you 
to Allah with the Truth, and it is for the Truth that I am calling you to Allah, 
to the One Who has no associates. To worship none but Him, and to be 
supportive of thosc who obey Him." Hc then recited to Abu Bakr sonic 
verscs from Ute Qur an, which so captivated him that he forthwith announccd 
his conversion to Islam. 58 

Besides being a highly respected merchant, Abu Bakr was also greatly 
regarded within Quraish. Taking it on himself to further the message, he 
bcgan inviiing to Islam aE thosc he trusted among the people who lrequented 
his quarters, and many embraced it, including az-Zubair b. al-'Awwam, 
TJthman b. 'Aflan, Talhab. 'Ubaidullah, Sa'd b. Abi Waqqas and 'Abdul- 
Rahman b. l Auf. Abu Bakr becamc the Prophet's staunchest supportcr, his 
faith standing him in good stead in every difliculty. In the case of the Prophet's 
nocturnal journey to Bait al-Maqdis (Jerusalem), some eariy followers could 
not rationally accept this occurrence and deserted Islam. Makkah's poiy- 
theists, keer» to seize this opportunity and divert Abu Bakr, goaded him 
as to whether he believed that Muhammad journeyed to Jerusalem by night, 
returning to Maltkah bcfbre dawn. He replied, " Yes, I believe it. I believed 
an even stranger thing when he informed me that he was receiving revelations 
from Heaven." 59 

v. The Prophet Preaches Openly 

After three years of preaching in secret, the Prophet was ordered by Allah 
to spread the word openly. 

«o j ..*. 

w Ihn IsluVj, as-Seynva al-Maghtm, the vcrsion of Ibn Bukair, p. 1 39. Hcrc Abu Bakr's 
questions do not mean that the Prophet once followed the way of the polytheists. It 
simply means, 'Did you dcnounce openly?* 

59 Ash-Shami, Subul al-Huda, iii:133. 

«' Quran 15:94-95. 


"Therefore expound openly whatyou are commanded, and turn awayjrom 
ikose wkojoinfalse gods unik Allah. I Ve are suffiaent untoyou againsl those 
wko scoff" 

At ihe outset the Prophet enjoyed some success, as the powerful chief- 
tains were absent from Makkah. But upon their return they assessed the 
situation and, realising the danger of this new faith, brought pressure upon 
the newly bom Muslim community; some weaker people were made to 
revert to their old ways, while others stuck to their new beliefs. Cruelty and 
harassinent mounted daily and the Prophet, after nearfy two years under 
its erushing weight, advised those who could not bear any more persecution 
to migrate to Ethiopia. 61 Occurring in the fifth year of the prophethood, 
those accepting this offer totalled less than twenty Muslims. 1 "' 2 A second 
migration to Ethiopia commenced not long afterwards, spurred by the 
polytheists' increasingly desperate bid to raise the level of hardships and 
uproot Islam. 1 ' 3 Observing the failure of their strategy, the polytheists 
decided on a dtfferent approach. 

vi. Quraish Offers Muhammad * Great Temptations 

The conversion of Hamza (one of the Prophet's uneles) was notcd by Quraish 
with consklerable alarm. 'Utba bin Rabi'a, a chicftain, observed the Prophet 
praying in the Hoiy Sanctuary alone and informed the Qiiraishi assembly, 
"I will go to Muhammad with some proposals which hc might accept. AVe 
will offer him whatever he seeks, and then he will leave us in peace." So 
"Utba went to the Prophet and said, "O my nephew, you are one of us, of 
the noblesi of the tribe and of admirable ancestry. You have come to your 
people with a great matter that has divided their society and mocked their 
way of life, have insulted their gods and their religion, and stated that their 
forefathers were disbelievers, so pay attention to me and I will make you 
offers, and pcrliaps you will consent to one of them." The Prophet approved, 
and 'Utba continued, "O my nephew, if you seek - with what you have 
brought - money, wc will gather from our wealth so that you will be the 
richest among us; if you seek lionour, we will make you our leader so that 
no decision can be made without you: if you wish sovereignty, we will make 
you king; and if this thing that comes to you is a bad spirit that you can 
see but cannot get rid of, we will find you a physician, and will use our 

bl 'LVuah, al-Afog/ia-T, p. 104. 

62 Ibu Hisham, Sira, tol. 1-2, pp. 322-323; Ibn Sayyid an-Nfis, 'Uyan al-Alhar, i: i i 5. 


'Urwali, al-Magfia-i, p. 1 1 1 


riches in having you cured, for often a spirit possesses a man till hc can 
becuredof it." Having listened paliently, the Prophet then replied, "Now 
listen to me: 

"/n theName of Allah, Mosi Gradous, Most Mercijul Ha Mim. A nvcla&on 
fiom (Allah) ilie Most Gracious, Most Mercifui A Book, whereof tiie verses 
are explained in detail - a Qur'an in Arabic,for people who compreliend. 
Bestowingglad tidings and admoniliomyet most of them turn away, and so 
they hear not. They say: 'Our hearts are under veiis, (conceakdjjrom that to 
whichyou invite us, and in our ears is a deafness, and between lis and you 
is a screen: so do whaiyou will; and we shall do what we will.'"' 
And the Prophet continued reciting whiie 'Utba listened attentively till 
he reached a verse that required prostration, and prostrated himself. He 
then said, "You have heard what you have heard, it is up to you." f ' 5 

vii. Quraish Boycotts Muhammad ■& and his Clans 

Stinging from their failure to tempt Muhammad, the Quraish went to Abu 
Talib, a highly respected elder who was the Prophet's uncle and tribal 
protector, and demanded that he put an end to Muhammad's behaviour, 
whom they accused of cursing their gods, denouncing their forefathers and 
insulting their religion. Abu Talib sent for his nephew and conveyed to him 
Quraish's message. Anticipating that his uncle had forsaken him and that he 
was about to lose his support, he repiied, "O my uncle, by Allah, if they were 
to place the sun in my right liand and the moon in my left, to force me to 
abandon this thing, 1 would not, till Allah let it come forth or I perished 
therein." And he turned his back and wept. Touched by his words, AbQ 
Talib assured»him that he would not turn him away. Soon afterwards the 
sub-clans of Hashim and al-Muttalib, unwilling to desert one of their ovvn, 
decided against giving up Muhammad even though they were idolaters 

64 Qur'an 41:1-5. 

65 Ibn HishSm, Sfa, vo). 1-2, pp. 293-94. In the translation, here and in other places, 
GuiJlaume's work has becn consulted. 


like the rest of Quraish. Failing to subdue him once again, Quraish wrote a 
decree instating a boycott of the Hashim and al-Muttalib sub-clans: maniage, 
a nd all forms of buying and selling, between the rest of Quraish and the 
tvvo sub-clans was completely suspended, such that not even basic provisions 
could be secured. This ruthless and devastating embargo carried on for three 
vears, during which the Prophet and his clans suffered immeasurably, carving 
out ?> precarious existence with nothing to cat but the tough leaves of the 
sparse desert vegetation. 66 

viii. The Pledge of ( Aqaba 

A decade of preaching and the Prophet had earned a few hundred steadfast 
followers, all enduring every conceivable form of persecution. During this 
time the ncw faith had also touched the ears and hearts of some people 
in Madinah, an oasis territory about 450 kilometres north of Makkah. 
These Muslims would journey to visit him during each pilgrimage season; 
their numbers steadily grew until they finally met with the Prophet in 
secrecy at 'Aqaba, in nearby Mina under cover of night, to make the 
following pledge: h7 

Figure 2.2: The site wkere the 'Aqaba pledge was made 
(an oldAfosaue adorns l/ie p/ace). Photo by Anas al-A%aim. 

Ibn Hisham, iTra, vol. l-2,pp.350-ol;lbnIshaq,oj-&)T»aa;.A 1 fagftai:t,theversk)v\ 
ot Ibn Bukair, pp. 154-167. 

67 'bn Histam, .S7ra, vol. 1-2, p. 433. 


(l) Not to associate any partners with the one true God, Allah; (2) To 
obey the Prophel in all rightcotis matiers; (3) To refrain from stealing; (4) 

And adultery; (5) And infanticide; (6) And slander. 

In the following year a larger delegation (over seventy, including two 
women) again met with him during the pilgrimage season and invited 
him to migrate to Madinah. On that night they proclaimcd the second 
pledge of ' Aqaba, with a new added clause:" 1 * (7) To protcct the Messenger 
in the same manner as they would protect their own women and children. 

With this invitation the persecuted Mustim community finally found 
an ouilet, a land they could journey to where they would be welcomed. 

ix. The Plot to Assassinate the Prophet 

Aflcr the torment of the lliree-year boycott, much of the Muslim community 
took heed of this offer and began migrating. Realising that any move by 

the Prophet northwards to Madinah would only delay an inevitable con- 
frontation and serve to strengthcn his cause, Quraish knew that the time 
had come to purgc their bitter enemy: in their assembly they finally reached 
a consensus on how to assassinate the Prophet. 

Informing him of this plot, Allah ordered him to hasten his preparations 
and migrate to Madinah with the greatest possible stealih. No one was aware 
of this except 'Ali and Abu Bakr and the latter's family. The Prophet asked 
l AJl to stay be.hind briefly in Makkah, for two reasons. First as a diversion: 
'A)! was to sleep in the same bed and in the same manner as the Prophet, 
with the bedeovers pulled over him, to trick those who were lying in wait 
with their daggers. Second, to return the valuables that men had deposited 
with the Prophet (for despite these trying times, peoplc still entrusted him 
with their goods; his status as Makkah's amin had remained umouched).* 1 

x. Muhammad 'H in Madinah 

Escaping from the assassination attempt by the grace of Allah the Prophet 
commenced his migration, with the companionship of his most sincere 
foilower and friend Abu Bakr, hiding for three days in the darkness of a 
mounlain cave al Tliaur. 7 " Madinah rang with an air of jubilation at his 

«8 'Aid, vol. 1-2, p. 442. 
'*' Aid, vol. 1-2, p. 4!)f). 
™ ibid, vol. 1-2, p. 486. 


arrival, in the third Islamic calendar month of Rabi 1 1, the streets resonating 
with excitement and poetry. With the incessant persecution lifted he set 
to work immediately, building a simple mosque that was nevertheless spacious 
enough to accommodate students, guests and worshippers for the daily 
and Friday prayers. Before long a constitution was drafted, outlining the 
responsibilities of the emigrants from \ lakkah and the inhabitants of Madinah 
towards each other, and towards the new Islamic state; and thejews, their 
position and their responsibility towards the community and the state. 
This was, in fact, the first written constitution in the history of the world." 

Madinah was composed pardy of some Jewish tribes, and to a rnuch 
larger extent of tvvo Arab tribes, the Aus and Khazraj. Both tribes were 
linked to each other through blood-ties but were constandy at odds, 
occasionaliy taking up arms. Thejews regularly shifted their allegiance 
from one faction to the other, further exacerbating the situation. The 
Prophet's arrival in Madinah heralded the entry of the new religion into 
nearly every house of the Aus and Khazraj, such that a new polirical situation 
became apparent; with the draftingof the constitution the Prophet became 
the supreme authority and leadcr of all the Muslims, as well as thejews. 
Those who were not favourably inclined towards the Prophet deemed it 
unwise to oppose him openly, and for them rwo-facedness soon became 
a daily routine. These hypocrites ( js*>li l ) attempted to harm the Prophet 
and his followers through divcrse means, with a zeal that continucd unabated 
throughout most of his life. 

The clear enmity between ttie Muslims and Arabia's polytliebcs, in addition 
to the neighbouringjews and their wayward allegiances, resulted over the 
years in scveral ghazawat (battles) and a few morc modest raids. The most 
prominent batdes were: Batde of Badr, Ramadan, 2 A.H. 72 ; Batde of Uhud, 
Shawwal, 3 A.H.; Batde of the Ditch ( JjJ-i), Shawwal, 5 A.H.; Battle of Bani 
Quraiza, 5 A.H.; Baulc of Khaibar, Rabf I, 7 A.H.; Battle of Mu'm.Jumid I, 
8 A.H.; Conqucst of Makkah, Ramadan, 8 A.H.; Hunain andTa'if, Shawwal, 
8 a.h.; The Year of Deputations"; and Tabuk, Rajab, 9 a.h. 

71 M. Haniidullah, The Firsl U'rillm Constitution in the World, Lahore, 1975. 

A.H. (Afier Hijra) is the Muslim lunar calendar. Initiated diiring the reign of the 
•ind caliph. 'Umar {and most lifcely earlier), it begins with the Prophet's migration to 
Madinah (the Hijra). 

Though not a batde, 1 have induded this because it signifies pagan Arabia's growing 

warmth and receptiveness towards Islam. Ghazimiiyj.) means to expend encrg>- in 

1 e spread of Islam, and the Year ol" Deputations is a lovely esamplc of Arab tribes 

mmg (0 ,] le p ropnet sans conipulsion, and contributinf to the spread of the relieion 



Though the Prophet's adversaries in these battles were generally idolaters, 
they did on occasion tncludejews and Christians who had allied themselves 
with Quraish against the Muslims. I will mention a few incidents from some 
of these ghazawat, not for the sake of detail but rather to facilitate a comparison 
of Islam's rapid spread under the Prophet's leadership with the disarray of 
the Israelites' desert wanderings at the time of Moses, and the struggies of 
the tweive Aposties during the time of Jesus. 74 

xi. Prelude to the Battle of Badr . 

News came to the Prophet that a huge caravan was passing by a route 
near to Madinah under the leadership of Abu Sufyan. The Prophet sought 
to intercept the caravan, but Abu Sufyan lcarned of this and altcrcd his 
route, dispatching a messenger to Makkah to request reinforcements. Con- 
scquently an army of one thousand men with seven hundred camels and 
horses was readied under Abu Jahl's command, an tmposing display of 
steel and strength marching northwards for an assault on Madinah. 

Receiving intelligence concerning both the caravan's new route and 
Abu Jahl's army, Muhammad informed the people of the circumstances 
before them and sought their advice. Abu Bakr stood up and spoke nobly, 
and 'Umar followed suit. Then al-Mkjdad bin 'Amr rose and said, "O 
Prophet of Allah, go where Allah tells you to go and you will find us with 
you. By Allah, we will not say to you what Banu-Isra'lP 5 said to Moses, 'Go, 
you with your Lord, and fighc while we sit here (and watch),'' 6 but 'Go, you 
with your Lord, and fight for we will fight with you.' By the One Who 
has sent you with the Truth, if you were to take us to Bark al-Ghimad" 
we would fight resolutely with you against its defenders until you conquered 
it." His intrepid words fell gratefully on the Prophet's ears, and he thanked 
him and prayed for him. 

Thcn he cxclaimed, "Advise me, O people," by which hc mcant the 
Ansar. Therc were iwo reasons behind this: (a) they formed the majorily; 
and (b) when the Ansar gave their pledge to him in 'Aqaba, they made it 
elear that they were not liable for his safety till he entered their boundaries. 
Once there they would protect him as they would their own wives and 
children. Hence the Prophet's concern that they might view with reluetance 

74 SeeChapters 14 and 16. 

75 Children of Israel. 

76 Qur*an 5:24. 

77 A placc in Ycmcn, others say the farthest stone. Regardiess, it means, "as far as 

you would go". 


any attack on Abu Jahl's daunting army, so long as it remained outside 
the boundaries of Madinah. When the Prophet had uuered these words, 
Sa'd bin Mu'adh said, "By Allah, as if you meant us?" He replied, "Yes, 
no doubt." Sa'd said, "We believe in you, we affirm your Truth, we bear 

witness that what you have brought is the Truth, and we have given you 
our pledge to hear and obey. So go wherevcr you want and we are with 
you; by the One Who has sent you with the Truth, if you were to cross this 
sea and wade through it, we would wade through it with you, not a single 
man Hngering behind. We do not abhor meeting our enemy tomorrow. We 
are skilled in warfare, dependable in battle. It may well be that Allah will Iet 
us show you something which will delight you, so take us along with His 
blessing." 73 The Prophet, assured and encouraged by Sa'd's words, pressed 
on to Badr with an army of 3 1 9 men, two horses and seventy camels. There 
they encountered the Quraishl forces: one thousand men (six hundred 
wearing chain mail), one hundred horses, and hundreds of camels. 79 By 
the day's end the grace of Allah had shined brightly upon the Muslims; 
the poiytheists suflered a catastrophic defeat, and the Islamic state ascended 
to maturity and became a renowned power in the Arabian Peninsula. 

xii. The Execution of Khubaib bin 'Adi al-Ansarl 

Khubaib, a Muslim captive, was procured by Safwan b. Umayya with the 
sole aim of having him publicly executed, as vengeance for his father who 
was killed at Badr. A mob gathered eagerly to witness the event. Among 
them was Abu Sufyan, who taunted Khubaib as they brought him out for 
execution, "I swear to you by God, Khubaib, do you not wish that Muhammad 
was here in your place so that we might behead him instead, and leave 
you with your family?" Khubaib replied, "By Allah, I would not like to see 
Muhammad in the place he is in now with even a thorn in his side, while 
I sit with my family." Abu Sufyan growled, "I have never seen a man so 
loved as Muhammad is by his companions." Then Khubaib was brutally 
dismembered, limb after timb, and was ridiculed as beads of sweat and 
streams of blood gushed from every corner of his body, before he was 
beheaded. 80 

78 Ibn Hisham, Sira, vol. 1-2, pp. 614-5. 

79 Mahdi Rizqallah, as-Sira, pp. 337-9. 

Uruah, al-Maghazi. p. 1 77. Khubaib and Zaid were captured in the same incident 
and both were martyred at Tan'im, a short time apart. In the work of Ibn Ishaq [Ibn 
Hisham, Sira, vol. 3-4, p. 1 72] this reply is attributed to Zaid. 


xiii. The Conquest of Makkah 

According to the condittons of the Hudaibiya peace treaty (6 A.H.), Arab 
tribcs were given the option of joining whichever faction (the Prophet or 
Quraish) they desired an aliiance with. As a resuJt Khuza'a joincd the Prophet 
while Banu §akr joined Quraish. The» Banu Bakr, aeting against the con- 
ditions of the treaty and with the assistance of Quraish, attacked Khuza'a; 
the Khuza'a tribestnen scurried towards the sanetuary of the Holy Ka'ba 
but contrary to the accepted custom their lives were not spared. Khuza'a 
brought their grievances to Muhammad and asked for justice. The Prophet 
offered both Quraish and Banu Bakr three options, the last of which was 
to consider the Hudaiblyya truce as null and void. With an arrogant air 
Quraish pieked the third option. Realising afterwards how unwise this was, 
Abu Sufyan went to Madinah to renew the truce, but returned fruitlessly. 

The Prophet prepared for an attaek on Makkah, and all the neighbouring 
tribcs ncaring allegiancc to the Muslims were invili-d to join Ibrccs. For twcnly- 
onc ycars Quraish had perpetrated cvcry conccivablc Ibrm of hardship, 
perserution and atrocily ott the Muslims, and now tlial the wherls had 
lurned they were fully aware of whal ihese prcpuraiioiis'rcally meant. I )read 
and fear spread rampantly in cvcry alley and evety house. I^cading an 
army of ten thousand, the Prophet procceded to Makkah on the I Oth of 
Ramadan, 8 A. H. The Muslims camped at Marr az-Zahran and Quraish 
were completely ignorant of this faet. The Prophet did not scek to take the 
Makkans by surprise nor was he anxious for bloodshed; )ie \vanted Quraish 
to fully assess the situation before opting for a hopeless batUc. In the mean- 
whilc Abu Sufyan and Hakim b. Hizam had ventured out on a spying mission 
when they encountercd 'AbbSs, the Prophet's unclc. 'AbbSs diseussed the 
situation with Abu Sufyan and advised him to accepl Islam, With Abu Sufyan's 
conversion the road was paved for a 'bloodless conquest'. 

Abu Sufyan hurried to Makkah and eried at the top of his voice, "O 
Quraish, this is Muhammad who has come to you with a foree you cannot 
resist. He who takes refuge in the house of Abu Sufyan is safe, he who shuts 
his door upon himself is safe, and he who enters the Holy Sanetuary is 
safe." And so the Prophet returned to his birthplace, the very city which 
had menaced him a few years before with brutish cruelty and assassination, 
now heading an army that marched bloodlcssly through the vcins of 
Makkah. The resistance was minor at best, and the Prophet soon stood 
at the door of the Ka'ba and delivered a speech, concluding with, "O 
Quraish, what do you think I am about to do to you?" They replied, "O 
noble brother and son of a noble brother! We expect nothing but kindness 


from you." And he said, "Go, for you are free." 81 Thus was the clemency 
he granted the Makkans, to those who had persisted in the torture of Muslims 
fortwentyyears. 82 

In ten years' time all of Arabia, from Oman to the Red Sea, and from 
southern Syria to Yemen, had come under Muslim control. A mere decade 
after his arrival in Madinah as an emigrant, Muhammad had beeome not 
only a Prophet implementing the Divine Order of Islam, bui also die supreme 
and uncomested ruler of the entire Arabian Peninsula - uniting it for the 
first time in history. 

3. Dealk of the Prophet and Accession of Abu Bakr 

i. Abu Bakr Handles Widespread Apostasies 

Prophet Muhammad's death in 1 1 A.H. led to Aba Bakr's unanimous nom- 
ination as his heir to the burgeoning Muslim state. During the Prophet's 
twilight days some of the hypocrites, among them Musailama al-Kadhdhab 
('Musailama the Liar'), 83 had claimed prophethood for themselves. Now, 
spurred by the Prophet's passing, wholesale apostasy 8 '* flared across most 
of the region. 8 ' Some of the tribal leaders who had iost their seats during 
the Prophet's lifettme followed Musailama's exampte, giving rise to new 
'prophets' such as Tulaiha bin Khuwailid and the prophetess Sajah bini 
al-Harith bin Suwaid, a stalwart Christian. 86 

The situation was so acute that even 'Umar suggested to Abu Bakr a 
temporary compromise with those who refused to pay Zakat. He rebuked 
any such idea, insisting, "By Aliah, I will deGnitely fight anyone who severs 
prayer from Zakat, for it is an obligation upon the rich. By Allah, if there 
is even a single eord (used for hobbling the feet of camels) which they once 
proflered to the Messenger of Allah as Zakat, but have now withheld it, 

81 Ibn HishSm. .SSa, vol. 3-4, pp. 389-412. 

- Bosworth Smith says, "If he had worn a mask at all, he would now at all evenis 

«ad thrown u off; ... now would have been the rnoment to gratify his ambition, to 

satiate his lust, to glui his rcvcuge. Is there anything of the kjnd? Read the account of 

»he emrv of Mohammed into Mecca side by side with that of Marius of Sulla into 

mc.... U'e shall then be in a position better to appreciate the niagnanimity and 

moderatku) of the Prophet of Arabia." [In Mohammed and Mohammedanism, London, 

6 > P- 1 +2, quoted by A.H. Siddiqui, The Life of Muhammad, Islamic Research Academy, 

Karachi, 1969, p. 313.] 

n the \amama region, a plateau in the central north-east region of the Arabian 

85 c enera "V> apostasy is the desertion of one's religious fakh. 
m; A ° me renjs «J to pay the Zak3t tmandatory alms) to the central govemment. 
A !-Tabari, Tarikh, iii:272. 


I would fight them over it." 87 Abu Bala- stood alone in his resolve, like an 
unshakable mountain, till every sincere person sided witli him. 

To combat these heretics AbO Bakr hurried to Dhul-Qassa, six miles 
from Madinah. 88 He summoned all the available forces of the Muslim army 
and, distributing them into eleven regiments, appointed a distinguished 
commander for each, along with a banner and a specific target: Khalid bin 
al-Walid to Tulaiha bin Khuwailid; 'Ikrima son of Abujahl, with Shurahbil, 
to Musailama; Muhajir son of Abu Umayya to the remnants of al-Aswad 
al-'Ansi, then to Hadramout; Khalid bin Sa'ld bin al-'As to al-Hamqatain, 
near the Syrian border; ' Amr bin al-'As to Quzu'ah an d others; Hudhaifa 
< "ip -^ b'" Mihsin ai-Ghalalanl to Daba, on the Gulf of Oman; 'Ariaja bin Harthama 
X to Mahara; Turaifa bin Hajiz to Bani Sulaim; Suwaid bin Muqarrin to 

Tahama of Yemen; Al-'Ala 1 bin al-Hadrami to Bahrain; and Shurahbil b. 
Hasana to Yamama and Quda a. BM 

Of these, perhaps the largest and fiercest battle was waged in Yamama 
against Musailama, whose forces exceeded forty thousand and enjoyed 
very strong tribal ties in the area. 'Ikrima was initially sent to finish him, 
but because of his Iimited success he was dispatched to some other region. 
Shurahbil, who had been sent to assist 'Ikrima, was now told to wait for 
the arrival of a new commander, Khalid bin ai-Walld, who by the grace 
of Allah successfully vanquished Musailama 's imposing army. 

Following the suppression of these rebeUions and the return of the Arabian 
Peninsuia to Muslim controi, Abu Bakr next ordered Khalid bin al-Walid 
to march towards Iraq.' l ° There he encountered and defeated the Persians 
at Ubulla,' Lady's Gastle, Mazar, Ullais (Safar 1 2 A.H./May 633 C.E.), Walajah 
the river of blood (in the same month), Amghisia, and Hlra (Dhul Oj'da 
12 A.H./January 634 1 C.E.), 91 where he established his headquarters. 92 After 
• Hlra he advanced to Anbar (12 A.H./Autumn 633 C.E.) and discovered a 
fortified city with protective ditches. His terms for peace being accepted 
however, he proceeded to 'Ain at-Tamr, a town straddling the desert three 
days west of Anbar. 93 Here the enemy was a potent mixture of Persians 
and Arab Christians, some belonging to the Christian prophetess Sajah; 94 

87 Muslim, Sahih, Iman:32. 
8 « At-TabarI, TMkh, itt:248. 

89 Ai-Tabari, Tarikh, iii:249; see also W. Muir, Annais of the Early Calipha/e, pp. 17-18. 

90 According to the historian Khalifa bin Khayyat this was in 12 A.H. \T6nkh, i: 100.] 

91 H. Mones, Atlas of the History of Islam, az-Zahra' for Arab Mass Media, Cairo, 
1987, p. 128. 

»2 W. Muir, Annais of the Early Caliphate, p. 81 . 
»3 ibid, p. 85. 
M ibid, p. 85. 


jn the ensuing batde the Christians fought more fiercely than thc Persians. 
Both were defeated and the city fell to the Muslims. 

«. Military Advances in Syria 

Regaining the Peninsula at the end of ] 2 A.H. (633 C.E.), Abu Bakr formuhted 
a plan to conquer Syria. His first two choices of commander, Khalid bin 
Sa'ld bin al-'As followed by 'Ikrima bin Abu Jahl, met with limited success. 
So he divided the region into four zones and appointed a commander to 
each: Abu 'Ubaidah bin al-Jarrah to Hims (in the western part of present 
day Syria); Yazld bin Abl Sufyan to Damascus; 'Amr bin al-'As to Palestine; 
and Shurahbll bin Hasana to Jordan. 

The Romans had acted accordingly, setting up four regiments of their 
own. Abu Bakr then amended his strategy and ordered his four generak 
to join together, in the process directing Khalid bin al-VValld to race swiftly 
to Syria with half his army to assume the position of commander-in-chief. 
There he was blessed with tremendous success, while elsewhere Muslim 
armies advanced swiftly against various other adversaries. 

4. The Counttus and Provinces Conquered During 
the Reigns of 'Umar and 'Utkman 

Yarmuk or Wacusa, 5 Rajab, 13 A.H. (Sept. 634 C.E.); 

Battle of Qadislya, Ramadan, 14 A.H. (Nov. 635 c. E.); 

Ba'albak, 25 Rabf I, 15 A.H. (636 C.E.); 

Hims and Qinnasrm, captured in 1 5 A.H. ($36 C.E.); 

Palestine and Quds (Jerusalem) in Rabi 1 II, 16 A.H. (637 C.E.); 

Capture of Madian, 15-16 A.H. (636-7 C.E.); 

Jazlra (Ruha, Raqqa, Nasibain, Harran, Mardien), mosdy inhabited 

by Christians, in 18-20 A.H. (639-40 C. E.); 

Conquest of Persia: Nehavand, 19-20 A.H. (640 C.E.); 

Egypt (e.xcluding Alexandria) in 20 A.H. (640 C.E.); 

Alexandria in 21 A.H. (641 C.E.); 

Barqa (Libya) in 22 A.H. (642 C.E.); 

Tripoli (Libya) in 23 A.H. (643 c.E.); 

Cyprus in 27 A.H. (647 C.E.); 

Armenia in 29 A.H. (649 c.E.); 

Dhat as-Sawari, naval war in 31 a.H. (651 c.E.); 

Azerbaijan, Deulaw, Marw (Merv), and Sarakhs in 31 a.h. (651 C.E.); 

Kirman, Sijistan, Khurasan and Balkh, also in 31 a.H. (651 C.E.). 



And so, after ruling 395 years, the curtains fell for the Sassanid (Persian) 
Dynasty at the hands of a ncwly born nation of thrcc decades, which could 
not boast of either administrativc expcricncc nor war cxpcrtisc. 'l'his could 
nol have occurred savc for the Muslims' unshakeable faith in Allah, His 
Messenger, and the supremacy of Islam. 

According to Prof. Hamidullah,'- the lerritories conqnered by 35 a.h. 
(the conclusion of 'Uthman's reign) can be divided as follovvs: 
Territories annexed during the 

Prophet's lifetirne uli 1 1 A.H. 1 ,000,000 Sq. miles 

Abu Baki- as-SiddIq 11-13 A.H. 200,000 Sq. miles 

'Umar b. al-KhattSb 13-25 A.H. 1,500,000 Sq. mites 

'Uihman b. 'Aflan 25-35 a.h. 800,000 Sq. miles 

Total 3,500,000 Sq. miles 

; «?w.- '■"* 


'**'> ARMENIA 
L«i£HK(B>M.\M,MriKi: V »v k. 

• KulliliS 


\ MI$Kl 

"\ . MtfiMft OMAN 

■/ ' 



\fi.h.nniiMi rni'M iw— <1 

»n<A II vM/'iXr«'J.. . 

l' yamama 

f • MnUik 

j, HA()RAMOr 

KmlrriiTtbi- I-I.ipiin 

,j .tv- ik«d( -l**i '('•lmi.Hi 

1 V<\ (^ YEMKN 

w,. ■ »^. ji.Mh.i Ww»»>.ii«iiu.ifcm.I«» l lllT . 

Figure 2.3: Border of the Islamk slate at the end of the lliird Caliph's reign (35 A.H. 
/655 C.E.); the boundaries at the time of the Prophet's dealh are provided m green 

Moses and the twelve tribes of Israel had wandered the Sinai desert - no 
rnore than one hundred miles in radius - for forty years as punishment for 

95 M. Hamidullah, at-Wathd'iq as-Sijasv/ya, pp. 498-99. 


discarding the orders of .Allah; in less tirne tliaii that the Muslims successfully 
acauired chree and a half mOlion square mOes of what is now the Middle 

5. Conclusion 

Aside from the vast territory vvhich had come under Muslim control, either 
through battles or dcputations, tlie Prophet at his death Ieft Muslims with 
the twogreatest assets of all: the Hoty Qur'an and the sunna'* His cause was 
taken over by thousands of Companions who had personally known him, 
lived aiongside him, shared food and star\-ation with him, and unsheathed 
their blades at his side. These Companions had literally pledged their lives 
in every hour of need without trepidation. We can only guess at their sheer 
number, bu t given that Musaiiama's force of forty-thousand was only one 
of a dozen apostate armies that were successfully engaged and defeated 
simultaneous/j, the number must indeed be staggering. It is unlikely that they 
approached the 600,000 'men of fightingstrength' who crossed the sea with 
Moses (according to E-Kodus), 5 " but whilst that muititude wandercd aimlessly 
in the desert sun, the Companions were blessed with one colossal military 
triumph after another. And all the while the new religion was scrupulously 
guarded, the entire realm's management based on the foundations of the 
Qur'an and sunna such that heresies were never given reign to germinate or 
Ilourish. Such an environment proved cxtremely receptive to the preservation 
and propagation of the Muslim tcxts in their intaet forms, as we sliall see ncxt. 


1 he sunna constitutes the authemicated traditions of the Prophet, i.e. all his properly 
wrified words and deeds (along with the aciions of others which met with his consent). 
«fidteds of thousands of these traditions exisi: a &mgle tradition is terrned hadith. 
See p. 2 16. 



Chapter Three 

From early lslamic history we now mm to face Prophet Muhammad's 
message itself, to its natura as well as to its link with the teachings of earlier 
prophets. Allah created humanity for the singular purpose of worshipping 
Him, though He is in no need of anyone's worship as it adds nothingto His 
supremacy. The manner of worship was not left to the dictates of individuals 
or communities, but was explicitly delineated through the dispatching of 
prophets and messengers. As all messengers received their commission from 
the same Creator, so the core message remained essentially the same; only 
some of the practical detaiJs were altered. Nuh (Noah), Ibrahim (Abraham), 
Isma'll (Ishmaelj, Ya'qub (Jacob), Ishaq (Isaac), YGsuf (Joseph), Dawud (David), 
Sulaiman (Solomon), 'Isa (Jesus) and the countless others He sent forth 
each bore a message of finite scope, intended for a particular community 
at a particular time. These were all invariably corrupted or Iost, nullifying 
the message and leaving its followers in the throes of idolatry, superstition, 
or fabrication. With Muhammad however, the time was ripe for a message 
that would not be hedged in by national boundaries or a particular epoch, 
a faith that could never be nullified because it was intended for all people 
and for all time. 

Islam refers to thejews and Christians as 'people of the Book'. These three 
religions have a common patriarch in Ibrahim, and hypothetically worship 
the same God that was worshipped by Ibrahim and his sons Isma'll and 
Ishaq, In discussing these religions we inevitably encounter some common 
terms, but though the words appear similar to the eyes the underlying 
implications often are not. For example, the Qur*an states explicitly that 
everything tn the universe has been created for the sole purpose of worshipping 
Allah, while injewish mythology the entire universe was created for the merit 
of the children of Israel.' In addition the Israelite prophets supposedly 
mdulged in fashioning images of false gods (Aaron) or committed adultery 
(David), while Islam insists on the virtuous character of all the prophets. 
Meanwhile, the Christian concept of a trinity - with Jesus being the sole 
member of the Godhead visible within church confines - thoroughly con- 
fadicts the precise Oneness of Allah in Islam. We wili therefore brieily cover 

See the quotes at the beginning of Chapters H and 15. 


the nature of prophethood in the light of Islam; tiris will lay thc groundwork 
ibr the fundamental diflcrenccs between Isl;un anci the two prcccdingcorrupted 
monotheistic religions, and defme some of the ideals that Allah conveyed 
to the world at large in His final revelation. 

1 . The Creator and some of His Atlribuks 

Clearly we did not create ourselves, as no creature has the power to create 
itself out of nothingness. Allah asks in the Holy Qur'an: 

" Were ifiey created of nothing, or were Ihey themselves the creatorsi" 

Ali creation therefore emanates from a Creator. 

jp >j i, jl«u .^J. ji= J13. > % iJj H fio ST Ji-J-S > 

"77m/ is Allah, your Lard! There is no god but He, tlie Creator of ail 
things, so worship Him; He has the power lo dispose of all affairs" 

4 i ®f.J>* o^'3 O^f &» & > 

" We have indeed created man in the besi of moulds." 

The Creator is unique, nothing has been fashioned into His Image. He 
is also wilhout kin, the one and on!y God. 

,$Jz jUj Xy, jjj jC jj o iLSJT ST ,3 Iii.1 ST > yi > 

"%; //e m 4/ffiA, The One; Allah, tJie Bernal, Absolute; He did not 

beget, nor is He begotten; and there is none like unto Him." 

Hc is gracious, merciful and loving. He rewards good deeds most generously 
if done with sincerity, and accepts repentance from the truly penitent. He 
forgives as H% pleases, but does not forgive those who ascribe other gods 
besides Him and die unrepentant. 

2 Qur'an 52:35. 

3 Our'an 6:102. 

4 O^n 95:4. 

5 Qur'an 112:1-4. 


"%•: m)' servants wko have transgressed againsl their souLs! despair not 
of the mercy of Allah: for A llahforgives all sins:for He is oft-forgiving, Most 

Ah 44»^5 fii-j o-4 •ty'* oj-» ^ j*~3 <-<? i>*» o' j*y ^ '& o! ^ 

" Allah forgives not thatparlners should be set up with Him; but Heforgives 
anything else to whom He pleases; whoever sets up partners with Allah has 
commitied a most keinous sin indeed." 

i. The Purpose Behind Mankind's Creation 

Allah created humans solely that they may worship Him. 

"l have created jinns and men. only that they may seret Mt." 

Given that food, water, shelter, reproduction and thousands of other 
maiters are inextricably tied to human survival, Islam has transformed all 
of these into acts of worship, so long as the intention behind them is to 
better serve Allah. 

«. The Message of the Prophets 

Within mankind, Allah instilled a nature that leads instinctively to His 
worship alone, provided there is no external interference. 9 To compensate 
for sucli interferences He dispatched messengers from time to time, to 
displace the webs of idolatry and superstition and guide people to the 

proper way of worship. 

6 Qur'an 39:53. 
' Qur'an 4:48. 
8 Qur'5n 51:56. 

This is cfcar from the hadith of the Prophet, "There is none bom but is created 
to 'his true nature [Islam]. It is his parents who make him a Jew or a Christian or a 
A k an V' [^ Iusum > ?"!>%> rendered into English by Abdul-Hamid Siddkji, Sh. M. 
Asnraf, Kashmiri Bazar - Lahore, Pakistan, hadith no. 6423]. 


"^Vbr awa/rf We send down Our wralk untit We had seni a messtnger (to 
give warning)." 

The Creator purged His messengers, paragons of virtue and piety 
without cxception, from all evil. Thcy wcre model examples of human 
behaviour, and instrucced their respective communities to follow their 
lead in the worship of Allah. Their core message throughout history was 

"Mver did We dispalck a messenger beforeyou withoul revealing to htm 
this: that there is no god but I; therefore worship and serve Me." 

And the message of all the prophets was, 

'&» 6« mindful of Allah (proclaimed tiie messengers), and obty me" 

u...... ' i f- -«r t ,'«!«. 

The concise phrase *U> Vj -J' V (there is no god but Allah) is the core 
belief uniting all the prophets from Adam to Muhammad; the Qur'an 

approaches this theme time and again, particulariy calling the attention 
of Jcws and'Christians to this point. 

2. The Final Messenger 

In the arid heat of Makkah, Prophet Ibrahim thought of the nomads who 
would come to settle in that barren valley and entreated his Creator: 

i^}C^s3\^iJJ^jdi^K j^fc ijfc j^u y^.'j JHfj^Tj i*S t 

" Our Lord! send amongst tfian a Messenger of their own, who shall rehearse 
Ibur Signs to tkem andinstruct them in the. Book and Wisdom, and purify 
them:for You are the Exalted in Mighl, tlie Wise." 

And at a fixed time, in the same barren land, Allah planted the fruit of 

Ibrahim 's supplication in the form of His last messenger to all humanity. 

111 Qur'an 17:15. 
" Quran 21:25. 

12 Qur'an 26:108. Secalso ilicsaineSnra verses; 1 10, 126, 131, 144, ISO, 163 and 
171). This iiidicatcs ilinl all llie prophois liave ;isk«l iIm- x;ui«- l'mui ilii-ir iimimimily. 

'* Qur'an 2:129. 


"Muhammad is not ihefathef of any ofyour men, but [he is] the Messenger 
of Allah, and the Seal of the Propkets." 

'i ^iliT }JJ\ £Jj fjtMj \'j&>, ^£1 uiia ^j -iililji "Uj ¥ 

" Me Aaw not sentyou but [as a messenger] to all mankind, giving them 
glad tidings and warning them [against sin]; but most peopk are not aware." 

" I Ve have not sentyou but as a mercyfor all worlds," ■ 

As Allah Willed it, so it came to be, that an unlettered shepherd should 
carry the burden of receiving, teaching and disseminating a reveladon that 
was intended to last uli the end of history: a heavier responsibility than that 
shouldered by all previous messengers combined. 

3. Receiving the Revelations 
Coneerning the reveladon of the Qur'an vve find verse 2: 185, 

"The month of Ramadan in wkich the Qur'an was [firstj bestowedfrom on 
High as aguidance unto mau and a self-evident proof of that guidance..." 

And in verse 97:1, ,,..,.. ,-,(-< 

» 3 jaili 2jLJ jj aJJjjI b| y 

"Behold,Jrom on High \\~e bestowed diis [divine writj on theMghtof Destiny." 

Over a span of uventy-three years the Qur'an came to be revealed bit- 
by-bit according to the impendingcircumstances. Ibn 'Abbas {d. 68 A.H.), 
one of the greatest scholars among the Companions, explains that the Qur an 
was sent in its entirety to the lowest heaven of the world (Bait al-'Uza) in 
one night, arriving from there to the earth in stages as necessary" 

The reception of reveladon (wahy) is outside the realm of the common 
person's experiences. For the pre\-ious fburteen centuries no true messenger 

14 Qur'an 33:40. 

15 Q,ur'an 34:28. 

16 Qiir'5n 21:107. 
As-SuyOtl, al-hqan, i:ll7. 



has existed, nor wili there be another, so to understand the phenomenon 
of waliy we have to depend solely on the rcports that come authentically 
from the Prophct, and from those trustworthy individuals who witnesscd 

him. w These narrations may perhaps mirror vvhat other prophets experienced 
as well, in the throes of divinc communication. 

• Al-Harith bin Hisham inquired, "O Messenger of Allah, how docs 
the revelation come to you?" He replied, "Somciimcs it comes like 
the ringing of a beli, and that is the hardest on me, then it leaves me 
and I retain what it said. And sometimes the angel approaches me 
in human form and speaks to me, and I retain what he said-" 19 'A'isha 
related, "Verily I saw the Prophet when the revelation deseended 
upon him on a day severe with cold, before leaving him. And behold, 
his brow was streaming with sweat." 20 

• Ya'la once told 'Umar of his desire to observe the Prophct while he 
was receiving wahy. At the next opportunity 'Umar called out to him, 
and he witnessed the Prophet "with his face red, breathing with a 
snore. Then the Prophet appeared relieved [of that burden]." 21 

• Zaid b. Thabit stated, "Ibn Um-Maktum came to the Prophet while 
he was dietating to me the verse, 

Wol egual are those believers who sil ...' On hearing the verse Ibn Um- 
Maktum said, 'O Prophet of Allah, had I the mcans 1 would most 
certainly have participated in Jihad.' He was a biind man. So Allah 
rcvealcd [the remainder of the verse] to the Prophet whtlc his thigh 
was on mine and it became so heavy that I feared my ihigh would 
Clear physioiogical changes enmeshed the Prophet during the reception 
of wahy, but at all other times his manner and speech were normal. He never 

18 There are many events that can be deseribed to, but not fully comprehended by, 
someone whose limited raiigc of expcricnrcs gets in the way. An casy cxample is 
deseribing a iandscape (let alone its colours!) to a biitid person, or chirping of birds 
to someone who is deaf. They may be able to appreciate somi of the deseription, but 
not to the full extent of someone blessed with hearing and cycsight, In the same sense* 
the deseriptions of the wahy and how the Prophet felt during its reception are, to the 
rest of us, matters beyond our full comprehenston. 

l' Al-Bukhari, Sahih, Bad" al-Wahy:l. 

2" ibid, Bad' al- Wahy: 1. 

21 Muslim, Salah, Manasik:6. 

' n Quran 4i95. 

2* Al-Bukhari, .S?M,Jihad:30. 


possessed any control as to when, where, and what the revelations would 
sav as is e\ident from numerous incidents. I have chosen the following two 
exampies arbitrarily: 

• In the case of some people slandering his wife 'A'isha, and accusing 
her of mischief with a Companion, the Prophet received no im- 
mediate revelation. in fact he suffered for an entire month because 
of these rumours before Allah declared her innocence: 

"And why dldyou not (0 people), wkenyou hear^ (the rumour), say, 'U is not 
right ofusto speak of this:glory to Ibu (our Lord) tliis is a most serious slander!" 

• Meamvhile, in the case of Ibn Um-Maktum's objection on account 
of his blindness, the Prophet received the revelation instantly: 

' * '* 

"W equal are those helievers who sit (al home) — excepting those who are 
disabled — and those who strive andfight in the cause of Allah with theirgoods 
and tlieir tives." 

i. The Beginning of Wah y and the Miracle of Qur'an- tt 

Preparing the fviture prophet for his role was a gradual process, a time in 
which puzzling occurrences and visions seemed to percipitatc about him, 
and in which the Archangel Jibril repeatedly let his presence be known. 27 
Appearing before Muhammad suddenly one day while hc was secluded 
in a cave. Jibril commanded him to read; he replied that he did not know 
how to read. The angel repeated his demand thrice, and received the same 
confused and frightened answer thrice, before revealing to this unsuspecting 
Prophet the very first verses he was to hear of the Qur'an: 

24 Qiir'an 24:16. 

25 Qur'an 4:95. 


In the following pages I will backtrack a litde, relating some incidents from 
• luhammacTs first few years as Prophet. These difler from the biographical overview 
of the pre\iojis chapter in that the focus here is explicitly on the Quran. 
27 Ibn Hajar, Fathut Ban, viii:7 16. 


28 < ;&: ^J JJ C jL^f^k ■;:;.; JtaJl^ Ji ^ jjl ^ 

"Read! in the name of your Lord and Ckerisher, Who created. Creaied 
man, oul of a leech-like dot. Proctaim! And your Lord is Mosi Bounlifui. 
He Who taugkt [the use of] the Pen, Taught man that wkich he knew not." 

Shaken from this unexpected encounter and carrying this greatest of 
burdens, Muhammad returned trembling to his wifc Khadija and implorcd 
her to conccal him, till somc mcasurc of calmncss had returned lo him. 
As an Arab he was familiar with all sorls of Arabic cxpressions, wilh poelry 
and prose, bui nolhing bore r<\seinblaiwe t<> diese versus; he had heard 
something tiie likes of which he had never heard before. These inelfablc 
Words, this Qur'an, became the first and greatest miracle bestowed upon 
him. In another time and placc Moscs had becn granted his own miraeles 
- iight emanating from his hands, the transformation of his stiek into a 
slithering snake - as-signs of His prophethood. Compare that to the subtlety 
of Muhammad's case: in the solkude of a mountain cavc an angel beekons 
an unlellercd man to rcad. His miraeles includcd no snakes, no plagues, 
no curing of lepers o r raising of the dead, bui Words unlikc anything (liat 
had ever fallen on human ears. 

ii. The Impact of the Prophet's Recitation on the Polytheists 

The passage of time helped to settle the Prophet into his new role, and 

as he busied himself expounding Islam to his ciosest companions by day, 
so Allah encouraged him to recite the Quran during the stillness of night. 

h j' ^U* «*• ■>*-' / ~>'*^*>, ■:;!/ 'M % JJ> J* ::;■■ 'S-y^ 4k * 

"0 enwrapped one! Keep awake [in prayer] at night, all but a small part 
of one-lialf ihereof — or make il a liille /ess than that, or aid to it [at 
witlj; and [during that time) recite the Qur'an cahnly and distinclly, with 
your mind altuned to ils meaning. " 

Let us chronicle the efTect of these recitations on the idoiaters. Ibn Ishaq 

28 Qiir'an 96:1-5. 
M Qur'an 73:1-4. 


Muhammad b. Muslim b. Shihab az-Zuhri told me that he was informed 
that Abu Sufyan b. Harb, AbO Jahl b. Hisham, and al-Akhnas b. Shariq 
b. 'Amr b. Wahb ath-Thaqafi (an ally of Bani Zuhra), had ventured out 
by night to eavesdrop on the Prophet as he recited in his house. Each of . 
the three chose an appropriace place, and none knew the exact where- 
abouts of his comrades, So they passed the night listening to him. At dawn 
they dispersed and, meeting onc anochcr on the way back, each of them 
chided his' companions, "Do not repeat this again, iest one of the simpletons 
spots you atid becomes suspicious". Then they left, only to return on the 
second night, eavesdrop again, and chide each other at dawn. When this 
recurred on tlie third night, they confronted each other the next morning 
and said, "VVc will not leave until we take a solemn oath never to return". 
After this oath they dispersed. A few hours iater al-Akhnas took his 
walking stick and, approaching the house of Abu Sufy5n, inquired his 
opinion as to what they had heard from the Prophet. Hc replied, "By 
God, 1 heard things whose meanings I cannot comprehend, nor what 
is intcndcd by them". Al-Akhnas said, u Such is aiso the case with me". 
Then he proceedcd to Abu Jahl's house and asked the same question. He 
answered, "What, indeed, did I hear! We and the tribe of 'Abd Manaf 
have always rivalled each other in honour. They havc fed the poor, and 
so have we; they have assumed other people s troublcs. and so have we; 
they have shown generosity, and s°o have we. We have matched each other 
like two stallions of equal speed. Then they proclaimed, "We have a prophet 
who receives revelations from the heavens'. When will we acquirc anything 
like that? By God, we will never believe him or call him tnitbful.° ,;! " 

Despitc the severity of their hatred the Prophet continued reciting, and 
the eavcsdroppcrs continued to increase til) they constiuued a sizeablc portion 
of Ojiraish, each of them tvary of havinghis seeret exposed. 11 The Prophet 
was not asked to argue with his antagonists about Allah 's Oncness because 
the Qur'an, clearly not the workof a man, contained within hself the logical 
proof of the existence and Oncness of Allah. Yet as his recitations spillcd 
from the stiliness of night into the bustle of day and became public, Makkah's 
anxieties were quickly brottght to the boil. 

With a popular fair fast approaching, some people from omongst Quraish 
approached al-Walid bin al-Mughira, a mati of some standing. He addressed 
them, "The lime of the fair has come round again and representatives of 
the Arabs will come to you. They will have heard about this fellow of yours, 
so agree upon one opinion without dispute so that none will give the lie 
to the other." They said, "Give us your opinion about him," and he replied, 

30 Ibu Hisham, Sira, vol. 1-2, pp. 315-16. 
Ibn hhaq, as-Seyr ua ai-Magha^i. pp. 205-6. 


"No, you speak and I will Hstcn." So they said, "He is a kahin (,y^: clair- 
voyant)." ai-WaiTd responded, "By God, he is not that, for he has not the 
uninlclligent murmuring and rhymed speech of thc kahin". "Then hc is 
possessed." "No, hc is not that. We have secn possessed onos, and hcre ihere 
is no choking, 110 spasmodic movemcms or whispering." "Then lu* is a poci." 
"No, hc is no poet, for we know pootry in all its Ibrms and meters." "Then 
he is a sorcerer." "No, we have seen sorcerers and their sorcery, and liere 
there is no spitting and no knots." "Then what are we to say, O Abu 'Abd 
Shams?" He rcplied, "By God, his speech is swect, liis root is as a palm- 
trce whose branches are fruitful, and everything you have said would be 
known as false. The nearest thing to the truth is yonr saying that hc is a 
sihir (.f»-l-: sorcerer), wlio has brought a messago by which he separates 
a man from his father, or from his brothcr, or from his wifc, or l'rom liis 
family." 1 ' 2 

We find the same phenomenon in the case of Abu Bakr, who built a 
mosque in Makkah next to his own house and devoted himself to regular 
prayer and recitation of the Holy Qur'an. The polyiheists approached Ibn 
' mt Addaghinna, who was responsibie for protecting Abu Bakr, and asked him 
"" to prevent Abu Bakr from reading the Qur'an because, among other things, 
women and childrcn were known to eavesclrop on his rccilalions, and wcrc 
naturally more susceptible to such an influence. 33 

4. The Propkel's Roles Regarding the Our'an 

The Qur'an consistently employs derivations of tala ("X: recited): yuila, 
allu, (atiu, yaitu etc. (p, p, p, J*). We read this in verses 2:129, 2:151, 
3:164, 22:30, 29:45 and 62:2, among many others; all of them allude to the 
Prophet's role of disseminating the revelations throughout the community. 
But recitation alone is insufficient if it is unaccompanied by instruction. The 
Prophet's responsibilities towards the Word of Allah are easily discerned 
in the following verses, the firsl being from Prophct Ibrahim 's supplication: 

"Our Lord! Send amongst them a messenger of their own, who shall rekearse 
liur Sigits to them and instruci them in the Book and Wisdom, andpurijy 

32 Ibn Ishatj, tis-Seyrwa at-Maghazi, edited by Suhail Zakkar. p. 151; lbn Hisham, 
Sfra.vol. 1-2, pp. 270-71. 

33 Ibn Hisham, Sfra, vol. 1-2, p. 373; al-Baladburi, Ausab, i:206. 
3 * Qur'5n 2:129. 


^4, * ♦ ^j-*j v-^P' f -f*' l*- J i»y^*J<J '-S 1 *' • 
"Allah has conferred a greatfavour on the Believers indeed, sending among 
tkem a messengerfiom amongst themsdves mho rehearses unto them the Signs 
of Allah, andpurifies them, and instructs them in the Book and W'isdom." 

j^<£& &4; 'pSCk \J% '^» Vj H=V Idljl Uf i 

"A similar (favouryou have already received] in that Wt have sent among 
you a messenger of your own, rehearsing toyou Our Signs, and puriffing 
you, and inslructingyou in the Book and Wisdom." 

And in Sara al-Qi)'dma: 

"Do not moveyour tongue concerning (the Our'an] to make haste therewith. 
It isfor Us to coflecl it [inyour heart] soyou may recite (and compile itj. 
But when W'ehave recited it,follow Us recital [as promidgatedj: Nay more, 
it isfor Vs to explain it (throughyour tongue]." 

The above verse concerns the Prophec's eagerness to memorise the 
Our'an whilst it was still being revealed. In his haste to commit verses to 
riicmory before they slipped away, he would move his tongue in anticipation 
of the coming words. By assuring him that there was no need for haste, 
that atl verses would etch themselves uncrringly into his heart, Allah was 
taking full responsibility for the timeless preservation of the Qur'an. 

35 Quran 3:164. 

:W Quran 2:151. 

3 ' Qur'an 75: 16-19. Thcsc verses shotild be rcad while kccping in mind at-Tabari's 
commentaiy in his Tafsir, vol. 29, p. 189. The Arabic wordjam'ithu (*«-—) has different 
nwanings. Jam'a (g^r) means memorisation, and also to collect and compile. At-Tabarl 
«jMotes Qatada (d. 117 A.H.) as saying: "In thls verse, Jam'ahu means compiktion." 
Ma'mar b. al-Muthanna at-Tamlmi (1 10-210 a.h.) esplained the meaning of the 
verse «i'ji; **«*• ij« i; as: "h is on Us to compile by means of connecting one piece to 
another" (ju, Ji <i* jJt ^1) [Abu 'Ubaidah, Majaz at-Qur'a>t, p. 18, see also p. 2]. 
When al-Qifri (rf. 646 A.H./1248 c. t.) compiled his work Inbah ar-RiwSt, he wrote: U 
***■'* ^» in the sense 'compiled by.' [Quoied by Fuat Sezgin (ed.), Majaz el-Ou/Sn, Intro- 
duciion.p. 31]. 

52 TH K H ISTO RY t ) !■ TU K (£U R ' A N k; i t.x T 

5. Recitation of the Qur'an in Turns wifhjibrfl 

To continually refresh the Prophet's memory, the Archangel Jibril would 
visit him particularly for that purpose every year. Quoting a few hadttlu in 
this regard: 

• Fatima said, "The Prophet informed me secretfy, 'Jibril used to recite 
the Quran to me and I to him once a year, but this year he has recited 
the entire Qur'an with me twice. I do not think but that my death 
is approaching.'"™ 

• Ibn 'Abbas rcported that the Prophet would meci with Jibril cvcry 
night during the month of Ramadan, till the end of the month, 
each reciting to the other.*' 

• Abu Huraira said that the Prophet andjibrtl would recite the Qur'an 
to each other once every year, during Ramadan, but ihat in the year 
of his death they recited it twice."" 1 

• Ibn Mas'ud gavc a similar report to the above, adding, "Whcncvcr 
the Prophet andjibnl finished reciting to each other I would recite 
to the Prophet as wcll, and hc would inform me that my recitation 
was eloquent." 41 

• The Prophet, Zaid b. Thabit, and Ubayy b. Ka'b recited to one another 
after his last session with Jibril.'''- The Prophet also recited twice to 
Ubayy in the year hc passed away.' 3 

Each of the above hadtths deseribes these recitations bctween Archangel 
and Prophet using the term Mu'arada. u 

The Prophet's duties towards the walty werc myriad: he was the instrument 
of divine reception, the one who supervised proper compitation, provided 
the necessary explanations, encouraged community-wide dissemination, and 
taught to his Companions. Naturally, Allah did not deseend to earth to 
explain the meaning of this verse or that; by stating that "it is for Us to 

38 AJ-Bukbari, ?aliilt, Fada'il al-Qpran:7. 

39 Al-Bukhari, fcltih, Saum:7. 

+° AJ-Bukhari, $thih, Fada'il al-Cnn-'an:?. 

+1 At-TabarI, at-lafsir, i:28, The isnad is very weak. 

42 A. Jeffcry (cd.), Mttqaddimaian, p. 227. 

43 ibid> p. 74; also Tahir al-jaza'irl, at-7ib)'Sn, p. 126. 

44 Mu'arada {i^jl*.) is froni MuJS'ala (^U.), meaning that two people are engaged 
in the sameaetion. R>r cxarnple muijalala (sEtt.): tofight each other, Thus Mu'arada indicates 
that Jibril would read once while the Prophet listencd, then vice versa. This general 
praetice continues to this day. A few of tlie Companions vvere in faet privy to this 
Mu'arada belwecn the Prophet andjibnl, such as 'UthmSn [Ibu Kathir, Fada'il, vii:440], 
Zaid b. Thabit, and 'Abdullah b. Mas'od. 


explain it" instead of "it is for you (Muhammad) to explain it", Allah was 
conferring full legitimacy on the Prophet's elucidation of all verses - not 
as guesswork on his part, but rather as divine iinspiration from Allah Himself. 
The same holds true regarding the compilation of the Qur'an. 

And so after memorisation, the responsibilities of recitation, compilation, 
education and explanation coalesced into the Prophet's prime objecrives 
throughout his prophethood, duties he diseharged with tremendous resolve, 
sanctioned in his efforts by Allah. The focus of the forthcoming chapters 
will involve primarily the first three among these; as for explanation of the 
wakp, the literature of the Prophet's surma as a whole constitutes his elucidarion 
of the Qur'an, his incorporation of its teachings into practical everyday life. 

6. A Rw Remarks on Orientalis t Claims 

Some Orientalist writers have put forvvard strange theories regarding the 
Qur'an's revelation. Noldeke for instance claims thai Muhammad forgot the 
earliest revelations, vvhile Rev. Mingana states that neither the Prophet nor 
the Muslim community held the Qur'an in high esteem till long afterwards 
when, with the rapid expansion of the Muslim state. they at last thought it 
perhaps worthwhile to preserve these verses for future generauons. Approaching 
the issue from a logical viewpoint is sufficient to dispel these claims. 

In fact this logical approach works regardless of whether one believes in 
Muhammad as a prophet or not, because either vvay he would have done 
his utmost to preserve what he was claiming to be the Word of Allah. If he 
truly was Allah's messenger then the case is obvious: preserving the Book 
was his sacred duty. As discussed earlier, the Qur an was the first and greatest 
miracle ever bestowed upon him, its very nature a testimony that no mari 
had penned it. To casually neglect this miracle, the sole proof that he was 
indeed Allah's Prophet, would have been abysmally stupid. 

But what if Muhammad was, for the sake of argument, an imposter? 
Supposing that the Qur*5n was his own creation, could he afford indifference 
towards it? Certainly not: he would have to keep up appearances, and shower 
it with regard and concern, because to do otherwise would be to openly 
admit his fraud. No leader of any stature could afford such a cosdy blunder. 

Whether one consigns Muhammad to the category of Prophet or impostor, 
nis behaviour towards the Qur an would have been zealous in either case. 
Any theory claiming even an iota of indifference is entirely irrational. If a 
meorist proffers no satisfactory explanation as to why the Prophet would 
act so grievously against his own interests (let alone the commands of Allah), 
tnen the theory b quite simply a throwaway statement with no basis in fact. 


7. Conclusion 

Memorising, teaching, recording, compiling, and explaining: these, as we 
have stated, were the prime objcctivcsof thc Prophct Muhammad, and such 
was the magnetism of the Qur'an that even die polytheists found themselves 
inclined to lend it their attentive ears. In subsequent chapters we will dcal 
in some depth with the precaulions taken by the Prophet and the early 
Muslim community, to ensure that the Qur an circulated in its pure, unadul- 
terated form. Before ending this chapter let us turn our attention to the 
present, and gauge how successfully the Qur'an has been taught in our 
times. Musiims across the globe are passing through one of their bleakest 
periods in history, an era where hope and faith seem to hang precariously 
in the balance everyday. Yet therc are countless Musiims - numbcring in 
the hundreds of thousands and covering every age group, gender, and 
continent - who have committed the entire Qur'an to memory. Compare 
this widi the Bible, translated (wlioliy or partiaUy) into two thousand languages 
and dialccts, prinled and distributed on a massive scale with funds that 
would place the budgets of third-world countries to shame. For all this effort, 
the Bible rcmains a bestseller that many are eager to purchase but few care 
to read. 4r ' And the exlent of this neglect runs far deeper than one could 
possibly iniagine. On January 26th, 1 997, The Sunday Times published the 
rcsults of a survey by its correspondcnts Rajeev Syal and Cherry Norton 
regarding tlie Ten Commandments. A random poli of two hundred members 
of the Anglican clergy revealed that Iwo-lhirds of Britain's vicars could not 
rccall all Tcn Commandments. Thcsc werc not oven lay Christians but vicars. 
This basic code of morality forjews and Christians is a mere handful of lines; 
the Ojir'an on the other hand, fully memorised by hundreds of thousands, 
trarotates into roughly 9000 lines.*' A elearer picture of tlie Qur an's esteemed 
influence and the Prophet's educational success cannot be imagined. 

45 Refer to Manfred Barthel's quote in p. 295 note 65. 

46 In the first three or four centuries of Christianity, ordination to the deaconate or 
priesthood required that the applicants memorise a cercain portion of the Scriptures, 
though the exact requirement difFered from bishop to bishop. Some insisted on John's 
Gospe), others oflered a choice between twenty Psalms or two Episdes of Paul; the more 
demanding ma^have even wanted twenty Psalms and two Episdes. (Bruce Metzger, The 
Texl of iheNew Tistameni, p. 87, footnote no. 1] This requiremcnt for hopeful deacons 
and priests is paitry at best; how can memorising the Gosp<^l according tojohn or twcuty- 
five Psalms by a dergyman compare with tlie vompletc memorisation of the Qur'an 
by Muslim children? 


Chapter Focr 

The first verse revealed to the Prophet vvas: 

"Read! in the name ofyour Lord and Cherisker, Wko created." 

There are no indications that the Prophet ever studied the art of the pen, 
and it is generally believed that he remained unlettered throughout his Iife. 
This first verse, then, provides a clue, not about his own literacy, but about 
the importance of establishing a robust educational policy for the masses 
that vvere to come. Indeed, he employed every possible measure to spread 
the spirit of education, describtng the mer its and rewards for learnmg as 
well as the punishment for withhoiding knowiedge. Abu Huraira reports 
that the Prophet said, 

"If anyonc pursues a path in search of knoulcdge, Allah vvill thereby 
make easy for him a path to paradisc." 2 

Conversely he warned, 

"Hc vvho is asked about something he knows and conceals it vviil have 
a bridle of fire placed around htm on the Day of Resurrection." 15 

He ordered the literate and illiterate to cooperate with one another and 
admonished those who did not learn from, or teach, their neighbours. 4 A 
special significance vvas given to the skil! of vvriting, vvhich in one hadJt/i is 
dcscribed as the duty of a father towards his son. s He also championed free 
education; when 'Ubada bin as-Samh accepted a bow from a student as a 
gift (which he intended to use in the cause of Islam), the Prophet rebuked 


1 Quran96:>. a*tic^*fa , 

Abu Khaithama, al-'Itm, hadiih no. 25. 
3 At-Tirmidht, Sunan, al-'llm:3. 
Al- Haiihami, ,\ lajma' az-Zoua'id, i: 1 64. 

Al-Kattani, al-Taratib al-ldanya, ii:239, auoting ad-Durr al-Manthur, AbQ Nu'aim 



"If it would please you to place a bridle of fire around your neck then 
acccpt lliat gift." 6 

Even non-Muslims were employed in teaching lkeracy. 

"Ransoms for the prisoners of Badr varied. Some of them were told 
to inscruct children on how to write." 7 

1 . Incenlives for Leaming, Teaching and Reciting the, Holy Oufan 

The Prophet spared no eflbrt in piquing the community's eagerness to 
learn the Word of Allah: 

a. 'Uthman bin 'Aflan reports thai the Prophet said, "The best among 
you is the one vvho learns the Qitr'an and teaches it."" The same 
statement is reported by 'Ali bin Ab! Talilv' 

b. According to Ibn Mas'ud the Prophet rernarked, "If anyone recites 
a Ictter from the Book of Aliah (hen hc will bc credited with a good 
deed, and a good deed attains a tenfold reward. I do not say that 
Alif [Mm Mim are onc Ictter; bui Alif 'k a lettcr, IJam is a Ictter and 
Mun isalelter."'" 

c. Among the immediatc rewards for leaming the Qur'an was the 
privilege of leading fcllow Muslims in prayer as Imam, a crucial post 
especialiy in the early days of Islam. 'A'isha and Abu Mas'ud al- 
Ansarl both report that the Prophet said, "The person who has 
memdVised, or learned, the Qur'an the most will lead the others 
in prayer."" 'Amr b. Salima al-Jarml recounts that the people of 
his tribe came to the Prophet, intending to embracc Islam. As they 
turned to depart they asked him, "Who will lead us in prayer?", 
and hc replied, "The person who has memorised the Qur'an, or 
learned it, the most." 12 During the Prophet's last days it was Abu 

c Ibn Hanbal, Musnad, vi:315. 

7 Ibn Sa'd, Tabagat, ii:!4. AIso Ibn Hanbal, Musnad, i:247. 

8 Al-Bukhari, ix:74, no. 5027-8; Abu DawOd, Sunan, hadith no. 1452; Abu 'Ubaid, 
Fada'ii, pp. 120-124. 

9 Abu 'Ubaid, tidTit, p. 126. 

111 Al-TinitidhT, Sunan, VadiVil iil-<^iir'an: 1 4»; sri: also Abu 'Ubaid, /•«(/</ V/, |). til. 

11 AbQ 'Ubaid, /■adai!, p. 92; at-Tirmidhi, .Sunan, hadiri) no. 235; Abu DawCid, 
Sunan, hadfth no. 582-584. 

12 Abu 'Ubaid, Fada'U, p. 91; al-Bukhari, Sahih, no. 8:18; Aba DSwtid, Sunan, no. 
585, 587. 


Bakr's privilege to lead the daily prayers, and this proved to be his 
greatest credential when the time came to appoint a caliph for the 
Muslim nation. 

d. Another benefit was the electrifying possibility of observing the angels. 
Usaid bin Hudair was reciting the Qur'5n in his enciosure one night 
when his horse began jumping about frantically. Repeatedly he would 
stop tili the horse was calm, aiid begin reciting only to have the horse 
jump wildly again. Eventually he stopped altogether for fear of having 
his son trampled; while standing near the horse he observed some- 
thing like an overhanging canopy above him; illuminated with lamps 
and ascending through the sky till it disappeared. The next day he 
approached die Prophet and informed him of the night's oecurrences. 
The Prophet told him that he should have continued reciting, and 
Usaid bin Hudair replied that he had only stopped on account of 
his son Yahya. The Prophet then said, "Those were the angels listening 
to you, and had you continued reciting, the people would have seen 
them in the morning for they would not have concealed themselves 
from them." 13 

e. Ibn 'Umar narrates from the Prophet, "Envy is justified in only two 
cases: a man who, having received knowledge of the Qur'an from 
Allah, stays awake reciting it night and day; and a man who, having 
received wcalth from Allah, spends on others night and day." u 

f. 'Umar bin al-Khattab states that the Prophet said, "With this Book 
Allah exalts some people and lowers others." 13 

g. Several illiterate elders found memorising the Qur'an to be arduous, 
their minds and their bodies being frail. They were not denied its 
blcssings however, for grcat rewards were promised to those who 
listened to the Quran as it was recited. Ibn l Abbas said that whoever 
listens to a verse from the Book of Allah will be granted light on 
the Day of Judgment. 1 * 

h . It was quite possible that a person, not having memorised well enough 
to read from mcmory, may feel an inkling of laziness in searching 
for a written copy So the Prophet stated, "A person's recitation 

s Muslim, Sahih, English translation bv SiddTqi, hadTth no. 1742. See also hadtih 
nos. 1739-1740. 

14 Abu 'Ubaid, Fada'il, p. 126; al-Bukliari, Sabiti, Tawhld:46; Muslim, Sahih, Salat 
al-Musafirtn, no. 266: at-Tirmidhi, Stm/tn. no. 1937. 

Ic " Muslim, Sahih, Salat al-Musafirin, no. 269; Abu 'Ubaid, Fada'il, p. 94. See also 
•Juslim, Saliih, Salat al-Musafirin, no. 270. the same tncident bui narrated through 
Amir b. U'athita al-Laithi. 

15 Abo 'Ubaid, Fada'il, p. 62; al-Faryabt, Fada'il, p. 170. 


without the aid of a Mushaf fwritten copy] elicits a reward of one 
thousand degrees, but his recitation using a Mushaf doubles that 
reward to two thousand."" 

i. In expounding on the excellencc of thc huffaz (J»U>-: who have 
committed the entire Qur'an to memory), 'Abdullah bin 'Amr reports 
that the Prophet said, "The one who vvas devoted to the Qur'an 
will be told (on the Day of Judginentj to recite and ascend, and to 
recite with the same care he practised while he was in this world, 
for he will reach his abode [in Heaven] with the last verse he 
recites.'" ft 

j. And for that lethargic slice of society which favours idleness over 
these Benefits, the Prophet confronted them with warnings. Ibn 'Abbas 
narrates that the Prophet said, 'A person who has nothing of the 
Qur an within him is like a ruined house.""' He also condemned the 
forgetting of verses after having memorised them as a grievous sin, 
and advised people to go through the Qur'an regularly. Abu Musa 
al-Ash'ari reports that the Prophet said, "Keep refreshing your 
knowledge of the Quran, for I swear by Him in Whose Hand is 
the life of Muhammad that it is more liable to eseape than hobbled 
camels." 20 

k. Ai-Hariih bin al-A'war relates a story thai occurrcd aflcr the Prophet 's 

"Whilc passing l>y llic Most|ue I cncouiiiered pcoplc iiuiulging 
in [insidious] talk, so I visited 'AJI and totd him this. He asked 
me if this was true and I confirmed it. Theii he said, 'I heard the 
Prophet deelare, "Dissension will certainly come". I asked the 
Prophet how it could be avoided, and he replied, "Kttabullah (s^ 
*W : Book of Allah) is the way, for it contains information of what 
happened belSre you, news of what will come after you and a 
decision regarding matters that will oecur among you. ll is the 
Disunguisheruiid is noijesiittg. If any oveiwoemngiK.'i'soiiatauidoiis 
it, Allah will break him, and if anyotie seeks gutdance clsewhere 
Allah will lead him astray. It is Allah's stalwart i'opc, the wisc 
reminder, the straight path; it is that by which desires do not 
swerve nor the tongue becomes confused, and the leamed cannot 

17 As-Suyilti, al-/lqan, i:304, cjuoting at-Tabari and al-Baihaqt in Shu'ab al-lman. 
Narraled by Aus ath-Thaqaft. 

18 Aba DawOd, Sunan, hadith no. 1464; ai-Tirinidhl, Sunan, no. 2914; al-Faryabl, 
Fada'it, hadith nos. 60- 1 . 

19 At-Tirmidhi, Sunan, Chaptcr Fada'il al-Qiir'fm, hadilh no. 2913. 

'-'" Musliih, Sahih, Englisli (raiislalion by Si<ldlqi, no. 1727. Sco also no. 1725. 



grasp it completely. Ic is not worn out by repetkion nor do its 
wonders ever cease. It is that of which the jinn did not hesitate 
to remark when they heard it: *We have heard a wonderful 
recitation which gnides to what is right, and we believe in it'; 
he vvho utters it speaks the truth, he who acts according to it is 
rewarded, he who pronounces judgement according to it is just, 
and he who invites people to it gnides them to the straight 
path.'""-' 1 

The next point to ponder is, how did the Prophet achieve the momentous 
aim of teaching the Qur'an to each and every Muslim? This can best be 
answered if we divide the subject into two main periods: Makkah and ' 

2. The Makkan Period 

i. The Prophet as Teacher 

Most of the Qur'an nas revealed in Makkah; as-SuyGtl provides a lengthy 
list of the suras revealed there."" The Qur'an served as a tool of guidance 
for the distraught soitls that found a life of idol worship unsatisfactory; its 

dissemitiation throughouc the infant, persecuted Muslim community neces- 
sitated direct contact with the Prophet. 

1 . The first man to embrace Islam outside the Prophet's family vvas 
Abu Bakr, The Prophet invited him to Islam by reading sonie verses 
from the Qur > an.'-' :! 

2. Abu Bakr subsequently brought some of his friends to the Prophet, 
including 'Uthman bin 'Aflan, 'Abdur-Rahman bin 'Auf, az-Zubair 
bin al-'Awwam, Talha, and Sa'd bin AbT \Vaqqas. Agahi the Prophet 
presented the nevv faith to them by reading verses from the Qur'an 
and they all embraced Islam.- 4 

3. Abu 'Ubaidah. Abu Salama, 'Abdullah bin aI-Arqam and 'Uthman 
bin Maz'un visited the Prophet, enquiring about Islam. The Prophet 
explained it to them and then recited the Qur'an. AJI of them 
accepted Islam.'- 5 

31 At-Tirmidhi, Sunan, FadS'il al-Qur'an:I4. hadith no. 2906, 
22 As-Suvuti, al-llaaii. i:22-50. 

Ibn IshSq. as-Seyar iea al-Magha-J. edited by Suhail Zakjcar, p. 1 39. 
24 ibid, p. 140. 


a ibid, p. 1+3. 

60 ' THli HISTOKY (»■ TI1I-: tyjR'ANK; TEXT 

4. When 'Utba b. Rabl'a went to the Prophet vvith his proposal, on 
behalf of Quraish, ofiering him every conceivable temptation in 
exchange for abandoning his mission, the Prophet waitcd patiently 
before replying, "Now listen to me," and then reciting a few verses 
as his response to the offer. 2B * 

5. Some twenty Christians from Ethiopia visited the Prophet in i\ lakkah 
enquiring about Islam. He explained it to them and recited the 
Qur'an, and they all became Muslim. 27 

6. As'ad bin Zurara and Dhakwan travelled from Madinah to Makkah 
to see 'Utba bin Rabl'a regarding a contention of nobility {munafara), 
when they heard nevvs of the Prophet. They visited him and, hearing 
a rccitation of the Qur'an, they too accepted Islam. 2 " 

7. During one of the pilgrimage seasons the Prophet met with a dele- 
gation from Madinah. He explained the tenants of Islam and recited 
a few verses. They all embraced Islam. 20 

8. In the second pledge of ' Aqaba, the Prophet again recited the Our'fin. 3 " 

9. He recited to Suwaid bin Samit in Makkah. 31 

1 0. IySs bin Mu'adh came to Makkah, seeking an alliance with Quraish. 
The Prophet visited him and recited the Qiir'an. J2 

1 1 . Rafi' bin Malik al-Ansan was the first to bring Sura Yusuf \o Madinah.*' 

12. The Prophet taught three of his Companions Suras Yunus, Tana, 
and Hal-ata respectively. 34 

13. Ibn Um Maktum came to the Prophet asking him to recite the 
Quran. 3S 

U. The Companions as Teachers 
Ibn Mas'Od was the first Companion to teach the Qur > an in Makkah. 36 

»"' Ibn Hisham, Sira, vol. 1-2, pp. 293-94. 

27 Ibn Ishaq, as-Styar wa al-Magkazi, ed. by Zakkar, p, 218, 

28 Ibn Sa'd, Tabagat, iii/2: 138-39. 

29 Ibn Hisham, Sira, vol. 1-2, p. 428. 

30 ibid, vol 1-2, p. 427. 
»1 ibid, vol. 1-2, p. 427. 

32 ibid, vol. 1-2, p. 427. 

33 At-Kattapi, at-Taratib at-IdMya, i:43-4. 

34 Ibn Wahb, al-Jami'Ji 'uliim al-Qur'an, p. 271. Thcse are suras no. 10, 20 and 76 

™ Ibn Hisham, Sira, vol. 1-2, p. 369. 

36 Ibn Sa'd, Jabaqat, iii/ 1:107; Ibn lsl.laq, as-Styar wa al-Magltazi, cd. by Zakkar, p. 



Khabbab taught the Qur'an to both Fatima fUmar bin al-Khattab's 
sister), and her husband Sa'id bin Zaid, 5 " 

Mus'ab bin 'Umair was dispatched by the Prophet to Madinah, as 
a teacher. 38 


U. The Outeome of this Educational Policy in the Makkan Period 

This flurry of educational activity in Makkah continued unabated despite 
the boycotting, harassment and torture which the communiry forcibly 
endured; this stahvart attitude was the most convincing proof of their 
attachment to and reverence for the Book of Allah. The Companions 
often imparted verses to their tribes beyond the valley of Makkah, helping 
to secure firm roots in Madinah prior to their migration. For example: 

* Upon the Prophet's arrival in Madinah he was presented with Zaid 
bin ThSbit, a boy of eleven who had already memorised sL\teen 
suras. 39 

♦ Bara' states that he was familiar with the entire Mu/assal(J~^ : from 
Sura Q|/~tiU the end of the Qur'an) before the Prophet's arrival in 
Madinah.*» • 

These roots soon blossomed in various mosques, whose walls echoed 
with the sound of the Qur'an being taught and read before the Proptiet had 
set foot in Madinah. According to al-\\aqidl, the first mosque honoured 
by recitation of the Qur an was the Masjid of Bani Zuraiq. 41 

3. The Madani Period 

i. The Prophet as Teacher 

Arriving in Madinah, the Prophet set up the Sufta, a school dedicated 
to instructing its attendees in the skiUs of literacy, providing them with 
food and a place to sleep as well. Approximate!y 900 Companions 
took up this offer. 4 -' While the Prophet imparted the Qur'an, others 

3/ Ibn Ishaq, «-& rar a« a/-A%/w^F, ed. by Zakkar, pp. 181-84. 

38 Ibn Hisharo, Sn, vol. (-2, p. 434. 

39 Al-Hakim, al-Musladrak, iii:476. 
4U Ibn Sa'd, TabaqSt, iv/2:82. 

4 ! An-Nuwairi, Mharatul Arab, xvi:3 1 2. 

42 Al-Kattani, al-Taralib al-ldariya, i:476-80. Accordingto Qatada (6 1 - 1 1 7 A.H.) the 
number of pupils reach«d nine hundred, while oiher scholars mention four hundred. 


such as 'Abdullah bin Sa'ld bin a!-' As, 'Ubada bin as-Samit, and 
Ubayy bin Ka'b taught the essentiais of reading and writing. 43 

• Ibn 'Umar once remarked, "The Prophet would recite 10 us, and 
if he read a verse containing a sajda (Sjj^-: prostration), he would say 
'Allah u Akbar' [and prostrate]." 4 - 4 

• Numerous Companions stated that the Prophet recited sudi and 
such suras to them personally, including renowned personalities like 
Ubayy bin Ka'b, 'Abdullah bin Salam, Hisham bin Hakim, 'Umar 
bin al-Khattab, and Ibn Mas'ud. 43 

• Deputations arriving from oudying areas were given into Madinite 
custody, not only for the provisions of food and lodging but also for 
education. The Prophet would subsequentiy question them to discover 
the extent of their learning. 46 

• Upon receiving any wahy, tlie Prophet observed a liabit of immediately 
reciting the latest verses to all the men in his company, procceding 
aftcrwards to recite them to the women in a separate galhcring. 17 

• 'Uthman bin Abi al-'As regularly sought to learn the Qur'an from 
the Prophet, and if he could not (ind him, he would resort to Abu 
Bakr. 48 

n. Dialects used by the Prophet for Teaching in Madinah 

It ts a well-estabiished faet that the dialects of difierent people speaking the 
same language can vary drastically from one area to the next. Two people, 
both Iiving in New York but coming from difTerent culturai and soeio- 
economic backgrounds, will each possess a distinet and recognisable accent. 
The same is true of people Iiving in London versus those residing in Glasgow 
or Dublin. Then there are the differences between standardised American 
and British spellings, and quite oflen (as in 'sehedule') a similarity in speliing 
but a diflerence in pronunciation. 

Let us examine the situation in present-day Arab countries, using the 
word gultu {^Ji: I said) as a test case. Egyptians wil! pronounce this as uit, 
substituting the u for the initial q. And a Yemeni speaker will say gultu, though 
in writing the word all Arabs will spell it identically. Another example: a 
man named Q5sim will, in the Persian Guli', be called Jasim; these same 
people converlj intoj», so that rijal (men) becomes raiyyal 

+3 AJ-Bailiaqi, funait, vi: 1 25- 1 26. 

« Muslim, Sa/uh, Masajid:l(H. 

4r> Sec al-Tabari, al-la/sir, 1:24; and oiher references besides, 

« H,n Hanbal, Musnad, iv:206. 

*' Ibn Ishaq, as-Sryar wa al-Magltazj, ed. by Zakkar, p. 147. 

48 A!-Baqi)lani, al-Jntisar, abridgcd version, p. 69. 


While in Makkah the majority of the Muslims were from a homogenous 
background. As Islam extended its fingers beyond tribal localkies to inctude 
the entire Arabian Peninsula, disparate accents came into contact with each 
other. Teaching the Qur'an to these various tribesmen was a necessity, and 
yet asking them (and often the elderly among them) to abandon their native 
dialects completely and follow the pure Arabian dialect of Quraish, in 
which the Qur'an was revealed, proved to be a difficult proposition. To 
facilitate greater ease, the Prophet taught them in their own dialects. On 
occasion tvvo or more people from different tribes may have joindy learned 
the Qur an in another tribe's dialect, if they so wished. 

iii. The Companions as Teachers 

'AbdullSh bin Mughaffal al-Muzanl said that vvhen someone of Arab 
stock migrated to Madinah, the Prophet would assign (J?j) someone from 
the Ansar to that individual saying: Jet him understand Islam and teach 
him the Qur'an. "The same was true with me," he continued, "as I was 
entrusted to one of the Ansar who made me understand the religion and 
taught me the Qur'an." +,J A plethora of evidence demonstrates that the 
Companions actively took part in this policy during the Madani period. 
The following narrations represent, as usual, only a fraction of the evidence 
at our disposal. 

• ' UbSda bin as-Samit taught die Qur*an during the Prophet's lifetime. 30 

• Ubayy also taught during the Prophet's lifetime, in Madinah, 51 even 
trekking regularly to teach a blind man in his house. 32 

• Abu Sa'id al-Khudarl states that he sat with a group of immigrants 
(i. e. from Makkah) while a qari' (reciter) read for them. M 

• Sahi bin Sa'd al-Ansari said, "The Prophet came to us while we 
were reciting to each other ...". 54 

• 'L T qba bin 'Amir remarked, "The Prophet came to us while we were 
in the moscjue, teaching each other the Qur'an." 51 

• Jabir bin 'Abdullah said, "The Prophet came to us while we were 
reading the Qur'an, our gathering consisting of both Arabs and 
non-Arabs...". 56 

* 8 A!-B5qill5ni, al-Inlisar, abridged version, p. 69. 
w Ibn Shabba, Tarikh al-Madiim, p. 487. 

50 Al-Baihaql, Sunan, vi: 125; Abfl 'Ubaid, Fada'il, pp. 206-7. 

51 AbO 'Ubaid, Fada'il, p. 207 
i:> ibid, p. 208. 

3i Al-Khatib, at-Faqih, ii;122. 

5t Aba 'Ubaid, Fada'il, p. 68; ai-Faryabr, Fada'il, p. 246. 

55 Aba 'Ubaid, Fada'il, pp. 69-70. 

50 Al-FaiyabI, Fada'il, p. 244. 


• Anas bin Malik commcnted, "The Prophct came to us wliile wc wcrc 
reciting, among us Arabs and non-Arabs, blacks and whites..."." 

Additional evidence shows that Companions travelled beyond Madinah 
to serve as instructors: 

♦ Mu'adh bin Jabal was dispatched to Ycmen. 1 " 

* On their way to Bi'r Ma'una, at least forty Companions known for 
teaching the Qur'an were ambushed and kiiled." 1 ' 1 

• Aba 'Ubaidah was sent to Najran."" 

♦ Wabra bin Yuhannas taught the Qur'an in San'a' (Ycmcn) to Um- 
Sa'Td bint Buzrug during the Prophet's lifetime. 1 ' 1 

4. Tke Outcome of the Educational Activities: Hiiffag. 

The sea of incentives and opportunities for iearning the Hoiy Book, 
coupled with the waves of pcople involved in disscminating it, soon yielded 
a prodigious number of Companions who had thoroughly memorised it 
by heart (the hiiffaz). Many were subsequcntly martyred on the fields of 
Yamama and Bi'r Ma'una, and the full detaiis of their names have, in 
mostcases, bcen lost to history. What ihe refcrences do show are the names 
of those who lived on, who continued to teach cithcr in Madinah or in 
the newly conquered lands of the growing Muslim realms. They inchide: 
lbn Mas'ud,'" Abu Ayyub,' i;i Abu Bakr as-Siddiq, K ' Abu ad-DardaV* Aba 
Zaid, ,iB Abu Musa al-Ash'arl, 117 Abu Huraira, ,iR Ubayy b. Ka'b,' 1 " Uni- 

57 lbn Hanbal, Musnad, iii:146; also al- FaryabI, Fada'il, pp. 244-45. 

s " Al-Khailfa, Tarikh, i; 72; ad-DOlabl, al-hana, i: 19, 

■<'■> AI-Baladliuri,^HW*, i:375. 

«• lbn Sa'd, JabaqSt, in72:299. 

fi ' Ar-Razi, Tarikh Madinat San'a', p. 131. 

ft2 Adh-Dlialiabi, Seyar al-'Aldm an-Nubala', ii:245; lbn Hajar, Falhul Bari, ix:52. 

63 lbn Hajar, Falhul Bari, ix:53. 

64 lbn Hajar, Falhul Bari, ix:52; al-Kattanl, at-Taratib al-ldariya, i:45-6. 

65 lbn Habib, at-Muhabbar, p. 286; an-Nadim, al-Filirist, p. 27; ad-DQlSbi, at-huna, 
i: 3 1-2; al-Kattani, at-Taratib al-ldariya, i:46. 

m lbn Sa'd, Tabaaal, ii/2:l 12. 

67 lbn Hajar, Falhul Bari, ix:52. 

68 Al-Kattani, at-Taratib al-ldariya, i:45; lbn Hajar, Falhul Bari, ix:52. 

m Al-Bukliari, Sahih, hadirii «os. 5003, 5004; lbn Habib, al-Mnhabbar, p. 86; an- 
Nadim, al-Filtrisl, p. 27; adh-Dhahabi, Tabatfit al-Qurra", p. 9. 


Salama, 70 Tamlm ad-Darl," Hudhaifa/ 2 Hafsa, 73 Zaid b. Thabit, 74 Salim 
client of Hudhaifa," Sa'd b. 'Ubada, 76 Sa'd b. 'Ubaid al-Qan," Sa'd b. 
Mundhir, 78 Shihab al-QurashI, 79 Ta'ha, 80 'A'isha, 81 'Ubada b. as-Samit,« 2 
AbduUah b. Sa ib, 83 Ibn 'Abbas, 84 'AbduUah b. 'Umaif 1 AbduUah b. 'Amr » 

'Uthman b. 'Affan, 87 Ata' b. Markayud (a Persian, living in Yemen), 88 
( Uqba b. 'Amir, 83 'Ali b. Abl Talib, 90 'Umar b. al-Khattab, 91 'Amr b. al- 
•As, 9 - Fudala b. 'Ubaid, 93 Qays b. Abi Sa'sa'a, 94 Mujamma' b. Jariya, 93 

70 lbn Hajar, Falhul Bari, ix:52, quOting Abu 'Ubaid. 

7 > Ibn Hajar, Falhul Bari, ix:52. 

72 Al-Kattani, al-TarSUb al-ldariya, i:45; Ibn Hajar, Falhul BSri, ix:52. 

'3 Ibn Hajar, Falhul Bari, ix:52; as-Suyiiti, al-llqan, i:202. 

™ Ibn Sa'd, Tabaqat, ii/2:lt2; al-Bukhari, Sahih, hadith no. 5003, 5004; Ibn 
Habib, al-Mukabhar, p. 86; an-Nadim, al-Fihrisl, p. 27; adh-Dhahabt, Seyar al-'Alam ari- 
„VaWa', ii:245, 318. 

75 Ibn Hajar, Falhul Ban, ix:52; al-Kattani. al-Taratib al-ldanya, i:45. 

76 Ibn Hajar, Falhul Bari, L\:52. 

77 lbn Habib, al-Muhabbar, p. 286; ai-Hakim, Mustadrak, ii:260; an-Nadim, al- 
Filtrist. p. 27: adh-Dliahabi, Tabaqal al-Qurra', p. 15; Ibn Hajar, Falhul Ban, ix:52: as- 
Suyati, al-lt<ian, i:202. 

78 Ibn Hajar, Falhul Ban, ix:53. 

? -' Ibn Hajar, al-lsaba, ii: 159; al-Kattiin?, at-Taralib al-ldanya, i:46. 

80 Ibn Hajar, Falhul Bari, ix:52; al-Kattam, al-Tamltb al-ldariya, i:45. 

81 Ibn Hajar, Falhul Bon, ix:52; as-Suyiiti. al-lh/an, i:202. 
8:2 Ibn Hajar, Falhul Bari. ix:52-53. 

"•* Ibn Hajar, Falhul Bari, L\:52; al-Kattani. at-Taralib al-ldariya, i:45. 
81 Ibn Katlilr, Fada'il al-Qur'au, pp. 7, 471: Ibn Hajar, Falhul Bari, ix:52. 
"•' Ibn Hajar, Falhul Bari. ix:52; as-SuyCili. al-llf/an, i:202; adh-Dhahabi, Tabaqal al- 
Cktrra', p. 19. 
,,,i Ibn Hajar, /vi/Ai// «ff/f, ix:52. 

87 Ibn Hajar, Falhul Bari, ix:52; adh-Dhahabi, Tabaqat al-Quna\ p. 5. 

88 lbn Hibbfin, Thii/at, p. 286: ar-Razi, Tarikh Madinal San't', p. 337. 

"'-' Ibn Hajar, Falhul Bari, ix:52; as-Suyiiti. al-ltq5n. i:203; adh-Dhahabi, Jabaaat al- 
Qiirra',p. 19. 

'*' An-Nadim, al-Fihrist, p. 27; Ibn Hajar, fw//w/ iBn, k: 1 3, 52; adh-Dhahabi, 
Tabaoai al-Qiirra', p. 7; al-Kattani, al-TarSUb al-lddriya, i:45; as-Suyufi, al-lladn, i:202. 

91 Al-Kattani, al-Taralib al-ldariya, i:45; Ibn Hajar, Falhul Bari, ix:52; as-Suyiiti, a/- 
/'•/<w, i:202: See also Ibn Wahb, al-Jami'Jt 'idSm a!-Qur'an, p. 280. 

92 Ibn Hajar, Falhul Bari, ix:52. 

93 As-Suyuti, al-llqan. i:202; Ibn Hajar, /vi/Am/ SSif, ix:52. 
544 As-Suyuti, a/.Aoan, i:203: Ibn Hajar, Falhul Bari, ix:52. 

s Ibn Hajar, Falhul Bari, ix:52; al-Kattani, at-Taralib al-ldariya, i: 46. 


Maslama b. Mafchlad, 96 Mu'adh b. Jabal," Mu'adh Abu Halima, 98 Um- 
Warqah bint 'Abdullah b. al-Harith," and 'Abdul Wahid.' 100 

5. Conclusion 

History has not always dealt kindly with Scriptures.Jesus' original Gospei, 
as we shall see later on, was irretrievably lost in ks infancy and replaced 
by the biographical works of anonymous writers lacking any first-hand 
knowledge of their subjcct; likewise the OT suflcred heavily under chronic 
idolatry and neglect, There can be no sharper contrast than the Qur'an, 
blessed as it was with rapid dilTusion throughout the Arabian Pcninsula 
during the'Prophet's lifetime, carried forth by Companions who had 
learned its \erses, and received their teaching commissions, directly from 
the Prophet himself. The vast number of hujja^ stands testament to his 
success. But was this dissemination purely verbal? We havc noled that 
compiling the Qur'an in written form was onc of the Prophet *s primaiy 
concerns; how then did he accomplish this task? These questions are the 
focus of our next chapter. 

% Ibu Hajar, FaUiul Bari, ix:52; as-SuyutT, n/-%nn, 5:202. 

97 AI-Bukhari, &m, hadlth nos. 5003, 5004; ibn Habib, ai-Afuliabhar. p. 286; adb- 
DhahaW, Tabaqai al-Qurra\ p. 19; an-Nadlm, al-l'iltrist, p. 27; Ibu Hajar, Falhul Bari 

98 Ibn Hajar, Fathul Bari, ix:52. 

99 Ibn Hajar, Fathul Bari, ix:52; as-Suyfltt, al-Itqan, i:203-4; al-Kattani, ot-Taratib al- 
Idariya, i:47. 

100 Ibn Wahb, d-Jami'Ji 'uliun al-Qur'an, p. 263. He disputed ividi Ibn Mas'ud in reciting 
ccriairt words. 

Chapter Five 



1 . During the Makkan Period 

Though revealed verbally, the Qur'an consistently refers to itself as kitab 
(^»15": Book), as something written, indicating that it must be placed into 
written form. In fect verses were recorded from the earliest stages of 
Islam, even as the fledgling community suffered innumerable hardships 
under the wrath of Quraish. The following narration concerning 'Umar 
bin al-Khattab, taken just prior to his conversion to Islam, helps illustrate 
this poin t: 

One day 'Umarcame out, his sword unsheathed, intending to make for 
the Prophet and some of his Companions who (he had been told) were 
gathered in a house at as-Safa. The congregarion numbered forty, in- 
cluding women; also present were the Prophet's uncle Hamza, Abu Bakr, 
'Ali, and others who had not migrated to Ethiopia. Nu'aini encountered 
'Umar and asked him where he was going- "J arn making ibr Muhammad, 
the apostate who has split Quraish asuiidcr and mocked their ways, who 
has insnlted their beliefs and their gods, to kill him." "You only deceive 
yourself, 'Umar," he replied, "if you suppose that Bani 'Abd Manaf will 
allow you tocontinue treading the earth if you dispose of Muhammad. 
Is it not better that you retuin to your family and resolve their aflairs?" 
'Umar was taken aback and asked what was the matter with his family. 
Nu'aim said, "Your brother-in-law, your nephevv Sa'id, and your sister 
Fatima have followed Muhammad in his new religion, and it is best 
that you go and dcal with them." 'Umar hurried to his brother-in-law's 
house, where Khabbab was reciting sura TaHa to them from a parch- 
ment. At the sound of 'Umar's voice Khabbab hid in a small room, 
while Fatima took the parehment and placed it under her thigh.... 1 

'Umar's angry quest that day culminated in his embrace of Islam; his 
stature and reputation proved a tremendous boon to those who, just a few 
hours before, he had meant to kill. The point of this tale is the parehment. 
According to Ibn 'Abbas \-erses revealed in Makkah were recorded in Makkah, 2 

Ibn Hish3nt, Slra, vol. 1-2, pp. 343-46. 

<J8 . TU K H1STOKY Ol- 'l"» K (iUR'ANIC TBXT 

a statement echoed by az-Zuhn. 1 'Abdullah b. Sa'd b. Abi as-Sarh, the one 
scribe officially engaged in recording the Qur'an during this period,* is 
accused by some of fabricating a few verses in the Qur'an - accusations 
which I have exposed elsewhere as baseless. 5 Another candidate for oflicial 
scribe is Khalid b. Sa'Td b. al-'As, who states, "I was the first to write down 
'Bismillah ar- Rahman ar-RahirrC {ffj* o*""^ 1 ** p— < : In the Name of Allah, 
Most Compassionate, Most Merciful)." 6 

Al-Kattalii cites this incident: when Rafi' b. Malik al-Ansari attended 
al-'Aqaba, the Prophet handed him all the verses that had bcen revealed 
during the previous decade. Once back in Madinah, Rafi' gathered his 
tribe together and read these pages to them. 7 

2. During the Madani Period 

i. Scribes of the Prophet 

Regarding the Madani period we have a wealth of Information inciuding, 
at present, the names of apprcodmately sixty-five Companions who functioned 
as scribes for the Prophet at one time or another: 

Abau b. Sa'lcl, Abu Umama, Abu Ayyub al-Ansari, Abu Bakr as-Siddiq, 
Abu Hudhaifa, Abu Sufyan, Abu Salama, Abu 'Abas, Ubayy b. Ka'b, al- j 
Arc[am, Usaid b. al-Hudair, Aus, Buraida, Bashlr, Thabit b. Qais, Ja'far 
b. Abi Talib, Jatim b. Sa'd, Juhaim, Hatib, Hudhaiia, Husaiii, Hatizala, 
Huwaitib, Khalid b. Sa'ld, Khalid b. al-Walld, az-Zubair b. al-'Awwam, 
Zubair b. Arqam, Zaid b. Thabit, Sa'd b. ar-Rabl', Sa'd b. 'Ubada, Sa'ld 
b. Sa'ld, Shurahbll b. Hasna, Talha, 'Amir b. t'uhaira, 'Abbiis, 'Abdullah b. 
al-Arc|am, 'Abdullah b' Abi Bakr, ''Abdullah b. Rawaha, 'Abdullah b. Zaid, 
'Abdullah b. Sa'd, 'Abdullah b. 'Abdullah, 'Abdullah b. 'Amr, 'Ulhman b. 
'Afian, 'Uqba, al-'Ala' al-Hadrami, al-'Ala' b. 'Uqba, 'Ali b. Abi Talib, 
'Umar b. al-Khattab, 'Amr b. al-'As, Muhammad b. Maslama, Mu'adh 
b. Jabal, Mu'awiya, Ma'n b. 'Adi, Mu'aiqib, Mughira, Mundhir, Muhajir 
and Yazid b. Abi Sufyan, 8 

" Ibu Durais, Fada'il al-ihr'an, p. 33. 

3 Az-Zuhri, Taazil al-Qur'mi, 32; Ibn Kathir, al-Butaya, v:340; Ibn Hajar, Falhut 
Ban, ix:22. 

■' Ibn Hajar, hathul liari, ix:22. 

5 For details see M.M. al-A'zaim, KuOSb an-Mbi, 3rd edition, Riyad, 1401 (1981), 
pp. 83-89". 

6 As-SuyutI, ad-Durr al-Manihur, i: I L The printed texf givcs his name as Khalid b. 
Khalid b. Sa'td, likely the mistakc of a previous copyist. 

' Al-KallanI, al-Taratib al-ldMya, i:44, quoting Zubair b, Bakkar, Aklibar al-Madina. 
s For a detailed study, see, M-M. al-A'zami, Kullab an-Nibi. 


a. The Prophet's Dictation of the Qur'an 

Upon the descent of wah) 1 , the Prophet routinely called for one of his 
scribes to write down the latest verses." Zaid b. Thabit narrates that, because 
of his proximity to the Prophet's Mosque, he was often summoned as scribe 
whenever the ;ca/»>commenced. 10 When the verse pertaining to jihad (at^*-) 
was re\ealed, the Prophet called on Zaid b. Thabit with inkpot and writing 
material (board or scapula bone) and began dictating; 'Amr b. Um-Maktum 
al-A'ma, sitting nearby, inquired of the Prophet, "\Vhar about me? for I 
am blind." And so came, «j^ Jy -«*>>" C" or diose Vho are not among 
the disabled"). 12 There is also evidence of proofreading after dictation; 
once the task of recording the verses was complete. Zaid would read 
them back to the Prophet to ensure that no scribal errors had crept in. 13 

iii. Recording the Qur'an was Very Common Among Companions 

The prevalence of this practice among the Companions spurred the 
Prophet to declare that no one should record anything from him save for 
the Qur'Sn, "and whoever has written anything from me other than the 
Qur'an should erase it", 14 by vyhich he meant that Qur'anic and non- 
Qiir'anic (e.g. hadtlk) materials must not be written on the same sheet, so 
as to avoid any confusion. In fact those who were nnable to write often 
appeared in the Mosque, vellum and parchmcnt in hand, requesting 
volunteers who might record for them. 1 '' Based on the total number of 
scribes, and the Prophet's custom of summoning them to record all new 
verses, we can safely assumc that in his own lifetime the entire Qur'an 
was available in written form. 

9 Abu 'Ubaid, Fada'ti, p. 280; See also Ibn Hajar, Fathid Ban, L\:22, quoting 
Lthman, referring to Sunan of at-Tirmidlu, an-N'asa'i, Abu Dawud, and al- Hakim 
in his al-SUuladrak. 

10 Ibn Abi Dawud, al-MasSiiif, p. 3; see aiso al-Bukhari, Mik, Fadail al-Qur'an:4. 

11 Quran4:95. 

'- Ibn Hajar, Fathul Ban, ix:22; as-Sa'att, Minhal al-Ma'biid, ii:17. 

13 As-Suli, Adab al-Kultab, p. 165; al-Haithami, Afojma' az-Zaua"td, i: 1 52. 

14 Muslim, Sahih, az-Zuhd:72; also Ibn Abi Dawud, al-Masahif, p. 4. For a detailed 
discussion see M.M. al-A'zaml, Siudies in Eaiiy Hadith Literaturt, American Trust 
Publications, Indiana, 1978, pp. 22-24. 

J See al-Baihaqi, Sunan al-h'nbra, vi: 16. , 


3. The Arrangement of ihe Our'an 
i. The Arrangeraent of Verses Within Suras 

It is commonly acknowledged that the arrangement of ayat (verses) and 
suras (chapters) in the Qur'an is unique. The layout does not follow the 
chronologtcal order of revelalion, nor does it follow svibjecl matter. Wliat 
secret lies behind this arrangement is best known to Allah, for it is His 
Book.. Now if I play the unscrupulous editor and re-arrange the words of 
someone clse's book, changing the scquencc of the scntcnccs etc, then 
altering the entire meaning of the work becomcs trcmendously easy. This 
end product can no longer be attributed to the original author, since only 
the author himself is entitled to change the wording and the material if 
the rightful claim of authorship is to be preserved. 

So it is with the Book of Allah, for He is the solc Author and He alone 
has the right to arrange the material within His Book. The Qur'an is very 
clear about (his: 

"It isjor Us to collect it (inyour heartj soyou tnay rtcite [and compile it]. 
But when We have recikd it, follow its recital (as promulgakd}: Nay more, 
it isfor Us to explain it [througkyour longuej" 

In licu of descending to earth to explain His verses, Allah entmsted 
the Prophet as His viceroy. The Qur'an states: 

"...and We have sent down unloyou tlie Message /0 Muhammad]; llial 
you may explain clearly to people w/iat is sent for Ihem." 

In graniinghim lliis privilegc, Allah was saiictioning the l'rophei's explan- 
ations as authoritative. ia Only the Prophet, through divine priviJege and 
revelation, was qualified to arrange verses into the unique fashion of the 
Qur'an, being the only privy to the Will of Allah, Neilher the Muslim 
community at large nor anyonc else had any Icgitimate say in organising 
the Book of Allah. 

The Our'an consists of sOras of unevcn length; the shortcst contain thrce 
verses while ihc longcst has 286. Vaiious reporis sliow that the Prophet 
aciively instructed his seribes about the placement of verses within suras. 

> s Qur'an 75:17-19. 
> 7 Qur'an 16:44. 

1,1 As mcntionc<l previously, in this liglit llic Prophel's sunttn - whidi is in f.ict a 
... „.•!,:..„ «Aiiaaiinr r>f tl«- Our'an - hai alwi hren nracticallv and verballv sanclioncd 


'UthmSn states that whether the revelation consisted of lengthy, 
successive verses, or a single verse in isolation, the Prophet would 
summon one of his scribes and say, "Place this verse [or these verses] in 
the sura uhere such-and-such is mentioned." 19 Zaid bin Th5bit remarks, 

"W'e would compile the Qur'an in the presence of the Prophet." 20 And 
according to 'Uthman bin Abl al-'As, the Archangel Jibril came to the 
Prophet once expressly to instruct htm about the placement of a certain 


'Uthman bin Ab! al-'As reports that he was sitting with the Prophet 
when the latter fixed his gaze at a definke point, then said, "The 
Archangel Jibril has just corae to me and expressly asked me to 
place the verse: 

in a certain poskion within a particular sura." 23 

Al-Kalbi narrates from Abu Salih on Ibn 'Abbas' authority regarding 

the verse: 

24 «f M j j <£ ^L>y*-"j> &y. ij&j > 
He states, "This was the last verse revealed to the Prophet. The 
Archangel Jibril deseended on him and instructcd him to place it 
after verse two hundred and eighiy in Sara al-Baqara."-'' 
Ubayy bin Ka'b states, "Sometimes the begtnning of a sura is revealed 
• to the Prophet, so I write it down, then another revelation deseends 
vtpon him so he says, 'Ubayy! write this down in the sura where such- 
and-such is mentioned.' At other times a revelation deseends upon 
him and I await his instruetions, till he informs me of its rightful 
place." 26 

Zaid bin Thabit remarks, "While we were with the Prophet compiling 
the Qur'an from parehments, he said, 'Blessed be the Sham.' 27 He 
was asked, *Why so, O Prophet of Allah?' He replied, 'Because the 
angels of the Most Compassionate (cr^-^ 1 ) have spread their wings 

19 See at-Tirmidhl, Sunan, no. 3086; also al-Baihaqi, ii:42; Ibn Hanbal, Musnad, 
|:69; Aba Dawud, Sunan, i:290; al-Hakim, al-Musladrak, i:221; Ibn Hajar, Falkul Ban, 
«:22: see also Abu 'Ubaid, Fada% p. 280. 

20 See at-Tirmidhl, Sunan, Manaqib:141, no. 3954; Ibn Hanbal, Musnad, v: 185; al- 
Hakiin. al-Mustadiak, ii:229. 

21 Aj-Suyuil, al-Itqan, i: 173. 

22 Qjiran 16:90. 

23 Ibn Hanbal, Musnad, iv:218, no. 17947.; see also as-Suyuti, al-llaSn, i: 1 73. 


Qur'an 2:281. 
26 ibid.o. 176. 

25 AJ-B5qillam, al-Intisar, p. 1 76. 


upon it." 28 1 n this hadtlh we again note that the Prophet was supcr- 
vising the compilation and arrangement of verscs. 

• Finally we have the clearest evidence of all, that of reciting suras 
in the five daily prayers. No public rccital can occur if the sequence 
of verses has not been universally agreed upon, and ihere is no 
known incident of a congregation disagreeing vvith its imani on 
his sequence of verses, whether in the Prophet's era or our own. 
In fact, the Prophet would occasionally rccite entire suras during 
the Jumu'a (Friday) sermon as vvell. w 

Further support is given by numerous hadiths which demonstrate that 
the Companions were familiar with the beginning and end potnts of suras. 

• The Prophet remarked to 'Umar, "The concluding verses of Sura 
an-Msa' would alone be suflicient for you [in resolving certain cases 
of inheritance]." 30 

« Abu Mas'ud al-Badri reports that the Prophet said, "The final two 
verses from Sura al-Baqara will suffice for whoever recites them at 
night." 31 

• Ibn Abbas recalls, "Spending the night in my aunt Maimuna's house 
[wHe of the Prophet], I heard the Prophet stirring up from his sleep 
and reciting the final ten verses from Sura Ati-'Imran."* 2 

ii. The Arrangement of Suras 

Some references allege that the Mushafs (w»>- 1^>: compiled copies of the 
Quran) :,:i uscd by Ubayy bin Ka'b and lbn Mas'ud exhibitcd discrcpancics 
in their arrangement of sGras, based on the universal norm. But nowhere 
do we find any reference to a disagreement in the ordering of verses within 
a particular sura. The Qur'an's unique format allows each siira to Junction 
as an indepcndenl unit; no chronology or narrative carries over from onc 
to the ncxt, and therefore any change in the sccjuencc of suras is purely 
supcrficial. Such were these diserepancies, if tndced they did exist, that 
the message of the Qur'an remained inviolale. Variations in word order or 
the sequence of verses would be a difierent matter altogether- a profound 
alteration that thankfully not even the best-known variant Mushafs can 
makc claims to. 

' m A]-BaqiUanI, at-lnlisar, pp. 176-7. 

29 Muslim, Sahih, Jumu*a:52. 

30 Muslim, Sahih, al-Fara'id:9. 

*' Al-Bukhaii, Sa/iik, Fada'il al-Qur'5i»: 1 0. 

32 Al-Bukharl, Sahih, al-Wudu':37; Muslim, Sahih, Musafirln, no. 182. tbr details 
s<:c Muslin i, /illah at-'tamyiz, edited l>y M .M. al-A'zaml, (>[>. 183-5. 
:,:i Ulcrullv a colfociion of shccls, hero mcaiiing shcels oi parclimonl conlailiing 


Scholars unanimously agree that to follow the sura order in the Qur'an 
is not compulsory, whether in prayer, recitation, leaming, teaching or mem- 
orisation. 34 Each sura stands alone, and the latter ones do not necessarily 
possess greater legal bearing than their earlier counter-parts; sometimes 
an abrogated ( j—s: naskh) verse appears in a sura that is subsequent to 
the sura containing the verse that replaces it. Most Muslims begin mem- 
orising the Qur'an from the end, starting from the shortest suras {Nos. 
1 14, 1 13, .. .) and working backwards. The Prophet once recited the Suras 
of al-Baqara, an-Msa' then Ali-'Immn (suras No. 2, 4 and 3, respectively) 
within a single rak'a (i*£j), Si contrary to their order of appearance in the 

As far as I am awan:, there are no haditks in which the Prophet delineates 
the order of all the suras. Opinions difTer, and can be summarised as foliows: 
i . The arrangement of all the suras, as it stands, harkens back to the 
Prophet himself.^This is the opinion that 1 subscribe to. The counter- 
view disagrees with this, citing that the Mushafs of certain Com- 
panions (such as Ibn Mas'ud and Ubayy b. Ka'b) supposedly differ 
in sura order from the Mushaf presently in our hands. :S7 

2. Some believe that the entire Qur'an was arranged by the Prophet 
except for sura no. 9, which was placed by 'Uthmatv* 

3. Another \ne\v credtts the arrangement of all suras to Zaid b. Thabit, 
Caliph 'Uthman and the Prophet's Companions. Al-BaqiUanT adlieres 
to this notion. 3 " 

4. Ibn 'Atiyya supporls the view that the Prophet arranged some of 
the suras while the rest were arranged by the Companions."' 

ui. The Arrangement of Suras in Some Partial Mushafs 

Muslim scholarly opinion unanimously holds that the present arrangement 
of suras is identical to that of 'Uthman's Mushaf."" Anyone desiring to 
copy the Our'an in its entirety has to follow that sequence, but for those 
who seek to copy only particular suras, following the arrangement outlined 
in Uthman's Mushaf is no longer necessary. Aji analogous situation oecurs 
when I travel by air: I like to take my work with me but, not wanting to 

34 Al-BSqiJ!anf, al-htisar, p. 167. 

35 Muslim, Sahih, Musafirin, no. 203. 

3l> See as-Suyuti, al-ftgan, i: 176-77; see also Aba Dau-ud, Sunan, no. 786. 

37 See Chapter !3, which is specially devoted to Mushaf of Ibn Masud. 

38 As-Suyuti, al-Itaan, i: i 77, quoting al-Baihaqi, Madkhat; see also Abu Dawud, 
Sunan, no. 786. 

39 Al.B5qillam, al-htisar, p. 166. 

40 Ibn 'Atiyya, al-Mukmrar al-Wapz, i:34-35. 

41 See Chaoter 7. 



carry bulky volumes in my suitcase, I simply photocopy those portions 
that I need duri n g my trip. 

In the early days Mushals were scribed on parchment of course, usually 
much heavier than paper, so that a full Mushaf may have weighed a few 
kilograms, And vve have many cxamplcs (for instance the Ycmcnl collection; 
see Figurcs 5.1-5.2) wherc the Qur*an is written in such largc calligraphy 
that an entire Mushaf 's thickness would easily exceed one metre. 

Ftgure 5.1: A parchment front the lemem collection. Oimensions are 
l San x I3cm. Courtesy: National Archive Museum of Vemen. 


ms m* 



Figure 5.2: Anotlier parchment from the Yemeni collection. Dimensions are 
~ l'3cm x San. Courtesy: National Archive Museum of lemen 



Taking the Mushaf that is printed by the King Fahd complex in Madinah 
as a Standard, we find that it contains some six hundred pages (approx- 
imately 9,000 lines). Interestingly, the entire text of the parchment in Figure 
5.2 is half a line in the Mushaf printed at Madinah, meaning that an 
entire Mushaf writteti on that scale would requtre 1 8,000 pages. Voluminous 
calligraphy is by no means rare, but it does generally indicate that the 
Mushaf consisted of no more than a handful of suras. Library shelves 
throughout the world are filled vvith partially written Qur'ans; listed 
below are a few do2en examples from just a single library, the Salar Jung 
Museum 4 ' in Hyderabad, India. 


No. of 


Order of suras 

' Date* 



36, 48, 55, 56, 62, 67, 75, 76, 78, 93, 
94. 72, 97 and 99-1 14 

c. Early ! Ith 



62 {first 8 ayahs only), 1 10, 1, 57, 1 13, 
56, 94, 1 14, 64, 48, 47, 89, 1 12, 36, 

78 and 67 

c An early 1 Oth, 
andlate llth 

century copy 



1. 36. 48, 56, 67, 78, 109 and 1 12-114 



73.51,67,55,62, 109 and 112-114 

1076 A.H. 



17. 18, 37, 44,50, 69, 51, 89 and 38 

1181 A.H. 

(=1767 C.F..) 



20. 21, 22, 63 and 24-28 

c. Earlv 12th 



6. 36. 48, 56, 62, 67, 76 and 78 

r. Earlv llth 



1.6. 18, 34, 35, 56, 67 and 78 

(. Earlv 1 lth 



1.36,48, 55,67, 73, 56 and 78 

r. Earlv 14th 



36. 48,56. 62, 67, 71, 73 and 78 

c. Late llth 



1.55. 56. 62,68, 73 and 88 

c. Late 12th 



36. 48, 78. 56, 67, 55 and 73 

e. Earlv llth 



36. 48. 78. 67, 56, 73 and 62 

c. Mid llth 



18. 32. 36,48, 56, 67 and 78 

c. Late llth 



18. 36. 37, 48,56, 67 and 78 

r. Late llth 



36. 48, 56. 67, 78, 55 and 62 

r. Late I2th 



36. 48, 78, 56. 67, 55 and 73 

e. Late 13th 



1.36, 48, 56, 67 and 78 

1115 A.H. 

(=1704 C.E.) 

- Muhammad AshraC .-1 Catalogue of Arabk Manuscripls 'm Salar Jung Museum & 
Library, pp. 166-234. 

Some Mushafs had the seribing date written on them, while others are undated. 
•or the laner, I copied the approximate date (A.H.) as per the catalogue and preceded 
it wich the cirea symbol. 




M. o/ 


Order of surat 




36, 48, 55, 56, 67 and 68 

1278 .UI. (=1862 C.E.) 


g 44 

1,36,48,56, 78 and 67 

r. liari v lOth 


6 4i 

18, 36, 71, 78, 56 and 67 

r. Late 13th 



36, 55, 56, 62, 63 and 78 

989 a.h. (=1581 c.E.) 



36, 48, 56, 67 and 78 

1075 A.H. (=1664 C.E.) 



36, 48, 56, 67 and 78 

S 104 A.H. (=1692 C.E.) 



36, 48, 56, 67 and 78 

1106 A.H. (=1694 C.E.) 



36, 48, 67, 72 and 78 

1 198 a.h. (=1783 CV..) 



36, 48, 56, 67 and 78 

1200 A.H. (=1786 C.E.) 



36, 48, 55, 56 and 67 

1237 A.H. 



36, 78, 48, 56 and 67 

626 a.h. (=1228 c.E.). 



36, 48, 56, 67 and 78 

Copied by Yaqut al- 



1,6, 18, 34 and 35 

1084 A.H. (=1673 C.E.) 



36, 48, 56, 59 and 62 

c. Earlv lOth 



1,6, 18, 34 and 35 

(. Earlv lOth 



6, 36, 48, 56 and 67 

c. Late lOdi 



18, 36,44, 67 and 78 

c. Earlv 12th 



6, 18,34 and 35 

r. Earlv 9th 




t. Earlv 12(1» 

Wc caii concludo llmt anyone desiring t o strilw. a parlial Mushal 
wouid have fcll al libcrty lo placc ihc saran in whichcvcr order lu: saw Ih. 

4. Conclusion 

By understanding the need to document every verse, the Muslim community 
(already swelling with the ranks oF the liuffag) was sctting up both an aid 
to memorisation, and a barrier to sliield the text Ironi corruptive influences. 
Even the grind of Makkan oppression could not danipen this rcsolvc, and 
when the Muslims at last enjoyed the prosperity of Madinah the entire 
nation, literate and illkerate alike, took this task to heart. At the centre of 
this nation resided its energising focal point, the final Messenger, dietating, 
explaining, and arranging every verse through the divine inspiration which 
was his privilege alone, till all the pieces were in place and the Book was 
completc. How the sacred text fared after the Prophci's dealh, and how 
the nation shunned complacency and exerted renewed efforts to ensure 
the Qur'aii's integrity, are the Ibcuses of onr next chapter. 

** Six s aras with somc supplicaiions in accorduncc with the Shiile ereed. 
45 In addition to some suppiications in accordance with the Shiite creed. 

Chapter Six 

Though the Prophet enlisted all possible measures to preserve the Qur'an, 
he did not bind all the suras together in to one master volume, as evidenced 
bv Zaid bin Thabit's statement that, 

"The Prophet was taken [from this life] whilst the Qur'an had not yet 
been gathered into a book." 

Note the usage of the word 'gathered' rather than Svritten*. Commenting 
on this, al-Khattab! says, "This quote refers to [the lack of] a specific book 
wich specific traits. The Qiir'an had indeed been written down in its entirety 
during the Prophet's lifetime, but had not been colleeted together nor were 
the sOras arranged." 2 

Setting up a master volume might have proved challenging; any divine 
naskh ( j-*: abrogation) revealcd subsequently, affecting the legal provisions 
or wordings of certain verses, would have required proper inclusion. And a 
loose page format greatly simplified the insertion of new verses and new 
suras, for the revelations did not cease unti! a short time beibre the Prophet's 
death. But with his death the wahy ended forever: there would be no more 
verses, abrogations or rearrangements, so that the situation jent itself perfectly 
for the compilation of the Quran into a single, unified volume. No hesitation 
was felt in arriving at this decision; prudence compelled the community 
to hasten in this task, and Allah guided the Companions to serve the Qur'an 
in such fashion as to fulfil His promise of forever preserving His Book, 

"We have, without doubt, serit down the message; and We will assuredly 
guardit (from corruption)." 

Ibn Hajar, Faihut Ban, L\:12; see also al-Bukhari, &A?A,jam'i al-Qur'an, hadith 
no. 4986. 

2 As-SuyGti, al-llqan, i: 164. 

3 Quran 15:9. 


1 . Compilation of the Qu/an Diiring Abu Bakr's Reign 

i Appointment of Zaid bin Thabit as Compiler of the Qur an 

Zaid reports, 

Abu Bakr seni Ibr mc ai a liinc whcn llu> Yamilma baltlt-s had witncsscd 
the martyrdom of numerous Com]>anions. I found 'Umar bin al-Khatiab 
wiih him. Abu Bakr bcgan, "'Umar has just comc to mc and said, 'In 
lho Yamama batlles dcalli has clcall mosi severely wiili ihe qnira\ A and 
I fear it will deal with thcm with cqual scvciity in othcr theatrcs of war. 
As a rcsult much of the Qur'an will be gonc (OT^Jl w*jj), I ani thcreforc 
of (lir opinion that you should command the Qtir'an bc colleoicd.'" 
Abu Bakr eontinucd, "I saicl to 'Umar, 'Hovv can we embark ini wlial 
the Prophet never did?' 'Umar replicd tliai il was a good decd rcgardless, 
and hc did not ccase replying to my scruples until Allah reconciled me 
to the undcrlaking, and I became of (hc same mind as him. Zaid, you 
arc young and intelligcnt, you used 10 record liur rcvclations for the 
Prophet, and we know nothing to youi" diseredit. So pursuc the Qur'an 
and collect il together." By Allah, had they asked me to movc a mounlain 
it could not have been weightier than what they rc<|ucstcd of mc now. 
I asked them how they could undertake what the Prophet had never 
done, but Abu Bakr and 'Umar insisted that it was permissiblc and good. 
They did not cease replying to my scruples until Aliah reconciled me 
to the undertaking, the way Allah had already reconciled Abu Bakr and 
'Umar. 5 

On bang convened Zaid acccplcd the momen tous task of supervising 

the committec and 'Umar, who had proposed the project, agreed to lend 
his full assistance. 6 

ii. Zaid bin Thabit's Credentials 

In his early twenties at the time, Zaid had been privilegcd enough to live 
in the Prophet's neighbourhood and serve as one of his most visible seribes. 
He was also among the kuffag, and the breadth of these credentials made 
him an outstanding choice for this task. Abu Bakr as-Siddtq listed his quali- 
fications in the narration above: 

1 . Zaid's youth (indicating vitality and energy). 

+ (hina' [lilerally: reciters] is another term for the hujjai, tliose who had complelcly 

memorised the Qur'an. The <jurra\ in their piety, aiways fought in the front lines during 
cotnbat and hence suflered greater losses than other sotdiers. 

5 Al-BnkliiuT, Sahih, Jam'i al-Qjir an, hadith no. 4986; see also Ibu Abl Dawiid, 

al-Masdhif, pp. 6-9. 


2. His irreproachable morals. Abtl Bakr specifically said «£ in< $ »: "We 
do not accuse you of any wrongdoing." 

3. His inteliigence (indicating tlie necessary competence and awareness). 

4. His prior experience with recording the tvahy. 7 

5. I may add one more point to his credit: Zaid vvas one of the fortunate 
few who attended the Archangel Jibrii's recitations with the Prophet 
during Ramadan. 8 

«i. AbQ Bakr's Instructions to Zaid bin Thabit 

• * 

Let me quote a brief case brought before Abu Bakr while he was Caliph. 

An elderly woman approached him asking for her share in the inheritance 
of her deceased grandson. He replied that the amount of a grandmother's 
share was not memioned in the Qur'an, nor did he recall the Prophet 
making any statements regarding this. Inquiring of those in attendance, 
he received an ansvvcr from al-Mughlra who, standing up, said he had been 
present vvhen the Prophet stated that a grandmother's share was one-sbcth. 
Abu Bakr asked if any others could corroborate al-Mughlra, to which 
Muhammad bin Maslama testified in the affirmativc. Carrying the matter 
beyond the realm of doubt meant that Abu Bakr had to request verification 
before acting on al-Mughlra 's statement.'! In this regard Abu Bakr {and 
subsequently 'Uthman, as we shall see) were simply following the Qur'an's 
edict concerning witnesses: 

cii=ji "ST Juli- CJ= CjSZ jiZ^icJu Vj J JuUb Lz\£=> *<&£, 
<J$ o^ o}* M- '*!♦ Jr^ % >'4j '&&£') i^JT *Ji <j jfT jjI3j 

"Oyou who haie attained tojailh! U'henever you give or take credit for a 
stated term, set it down in writing. . .. And call upon two ofyour men to 
act as witnesses: and if two men are not avaikble, then a mari and two 
womenfrom among such as are acceptable to you as witnesses, so that if 

' See al-Bukh3ri, Sahih, Jam'i cd-Qur'an. hadith no. 4986; also Ibn Abi DawOd, 
a '-Masahif, p. 8. 

" Tahir aljaza'iri, al-Tibyan, p. 126; see also A. Jeflery (ed.), al-Mabani, p. 25. 


om of them skoutd make a tnistake, theother could remind her. And the 
wilnesses must nol refuse (togive evidencej wkenem tltey are calkd u/>on. " ,0 

This law of wimcss piaycd an cssential rok- in ihc Qur an's compilalion 
(as weH as in hadith methodology), and constituted the vcry corc of Abu 
Bakr's instructions to Zaid. Ibn Hajar relates: 

.eUSli «UI ^A£ j* *-£ ,Js- ^Jj.Utj U5tbr J+* Jay-'-il s"U ^U lA«Jt 

Abu Bakr told 'Umar and Zaid, "Sit at the entrance to the [Prophct's] 
Mosque. If anyone brings you a verse from the Book of Allah along 
with tvvo witnesses, then rccord it."" 

Ibn Hajar commcnls on what Abu Bakr may liavc nicani by 'witness': 

d\ JUOU*i« U^l iljll j> ivjU&i., JiiJ-i ^-uUSl. >\p olf» :_^v j>\ Jl» 
j» iJJi ot J* OU+i* U«;i il^l } \ «X «U' Jj-j ^j< ^ ^ ^^£11 iUi 
^V-"* O» v-^ *- C*» o* V! v^ V u' ih-»/* ^ } t^Tytfi W* J> v 1 " <, ^ r ^ Jl 

As if what was meant by two witnesses werc memory p>acked hy| lho 
written word. Or, two witnesses to tcstiiy ihat the verse was wrilten 
verbatim in the Prophet's presence, Or, meaning they would testify 
tliat it was onc of lho forms in which ihc Ojtr'an was revcalcd. The 
intention was to accept only what had becn written in the Prophet's 
presence, not relying on one's memory alone. 

- The second opinion finds the most favour with mc: acceptance of only 
those materials which, according to the sworn testimony of tvvo others, had 
been written in the Prophet's very presence. Ibn Hajar's statement aflirms 
this view, that "Zaid was unwilling to accept any written material for con- 
sideration unless two Companions bore witness that the man received his 
dietation from the Prophct himsclf." 13 

According to Professor Shauql Daif, Bilal bin Rabah paced the streets 
of Madinah requesting the attendance of any Companion who possessed 
verses recorded by the Prophet's own dietation. 1 * 

10 Q_ur'an 2:282. The decree of substituting two women for one mau may be due 
to the former's Iesser flueney with genera! business procedures. See Muhammad Asad's 
translation of the Qur'3n, Sura 2 footnote 273. 

1 1 Ibn Abi Dawud, at-MasaJiif, p. 6; see also Ibn Hajar, Falhul Ban, ix:14. 
'2 Ibn Hajar, Falhul Bari, ix:14-l5. 

! 3 Ibn Hajar, Falhul Bari, bc: 1 4. For the sources of collecting materials, see al-Bukhari, 
Sahih, hadith no. 4986. 

'+ Shanni Daif. Kkdb as-Sab'a of ibn Muiahid. Introduction, p. 6. 


tv. How Zaid bin Thabit Utilised the Written Materials 

The normal procedure in collating manuscripts is for the editor to compare 
different copies of the same work, though naturally not aD copies wifl be of 
equal value. In oudining manuscript gradations, which are most dependable 
and which are worthiess, Bergstrasser set out a fcw rules among the most 
important of which are: 

1 . Older copies are generally more reliable than newer ones. 

2. Copies that were revised and corrected by the scrtbe, through com- 
parison with the mother manuscript, are superior to those which 
lackthis. 13 

3. If the original is extant, any copy scribed from this loses ail signif- 
icance. 16 

Blachere and Sauvaget reiterate this third point: should the author's 
original autograph exist, or a copy revised by the author, then the value 
of all other copies is negated." Likewise, in the absence of the author's 
original, any duplicate whose mother copy is available is discarded. 


Autographed Copy ) 


Figure 6J: The lineage treefor an author's autographed text 

Suppose that a manuscript's lineage follows the tree above. Consider 
these two scenarios; 

* Assume that the original author only produced a single edition of 
his book. There were no second editions, or emendations to the first. 
Three manuscripts of this work are uncovered; ( 1 ) the autographed 
original (an entire copy written in the author's hand); (2) a single 
manuscript which was scribed from the author's original (A for 
example); and (3) another manuscript which is very late (Lperhaps). 
Obviously the second and third manuscripts are worthiess and 
cannot be taken into consideration when editing the work, since 
neither of them is of equal status to the original author's hand- 
written copy. 

15 Bergstrasser, Ustil.\~aqd an-Misus waMuhr al-Kutub (in Araik), Cairo, 1969, p. !4. 

16 ibid, p. 20. 

17 R. Blachere et J. Sauvaget, Regles pour editions et traiuctimu di (exies arabes. Arabic 

tranclatirm ku al-MinHSH r. 47 



* Again, assume a single edition of the book. Failing to locate the 
autogr'aphed copy however, the editor is forced to rely on three 
other njanuscripts, Two manuscripts, writtcn by the original author's 
students, we designate as A and B. The third manuscript A'is copied 
from B. Here X has no value. The editor must depend cntircly 011 
A and B, and cannot discard eitlier of tliem since both have equal 

Such are the underpinnings of textual criticism and editing as establishcd 
by Orientalists in the 20th century. Fourteen centuries ago, however, Zaid 
did preeisely this. The Prophet's sojourn in Madinah had been a timc of 
intense scribal activity: many Companions possessed verses which they 
had copied from the parehments of friends and neighbours. By limiling 
liimsclf lo the verses transeribed under (hc Prophet's supervision, Zaid 
ensured thal all of tke material ke was examining was of cqual status, thereby 
guaranlecing the highesi atlatnable accuracy. Havinsmcniorised lho Our'fui 
and seribed much of it while seated belbre the Prophet, his memory and 
his writings could only be compared with material of the same standing, 
not with second- or third-hand copies." 1 Hence the insistence of Abu Bakr, 
'Umar and Zaid on first-hand material only, with two witnesses to back 
this claim and assure 'cqual status'. 

Spurred on by the zcal of ils organisers, this projeci blossomed into a 
true community ellbrt: 

♦ Calipli Abfl Bakr issued u general invitation (or one inay say, a 
decree) ibr every eligible person to participate. 

• The project was carried out in the Prophet's Mosque, a central 
gathering place. 

• Following the Caliph's instruetions, 'Umar stood at the gates of 
the Mosque and announced that anyone possessing written verses 
dietated from the Prophet must bring them. Bilal announced the 
same thing throughout the streets of Madinah. 

v. Zaid bin Thabit and the Use of Oral Sources 

It appears that while the focus lay on the written word, once the primary 
written source was found - whether parehment, wooden planks, or palm 
leaves (s— J') ek. - the writings were verified not only against each other 
but also against the memories of Companions who had learned directly 
from the Prophet. By placing the same stringent requirements for accep- 
lance of both the written and memorised verse, equal status was preserved. 

" ( In establishing any text, it is academteaily unacceptable to compare between 
difierent grades of manuscripts. 


I n any case Zaid alludes to people's memories". "So I gathered the Qur'an 
from various parchments and pieces of bone, and from the chesis of men 
( Jbr^i j^J~*) [ie. their memories]." Az-ZarakhshT comments, 

This statement has lead a few to suppose that no one had memorised 
the Our'an in its entirety during the Prophet's lifetime, and that clatms 
of Zaid and Ubayy bin Ka'b having done so are unfounded, But this is 
erroneous. What Zaid means in fact is that he sought out verses from 
scattered sources, to collate them against the recollections of the huffai. 
In this way everyone participated in the collection process. No one 
possessing any portion of it was left out, and so no one had reason for 
expressing concern about the verses collected, nor could anyone complain 
that the text had been gathered from only a select few. 19 

Ibn Hajar draws special attention to Zaid's statement, "I found the iast 
two verses of Sura at-Bara'a with Abu Khufeiima al-Ansari," as demonstrating 
that Zaid's own writings and memorisation were not deemed sufficient. 
Everyihing required verification.-" Ibn Hajar further comments, 

AbO Bakr had not authorised him to reeord except what was already 
availabte [on parchmcnt] . That is why Zaid refrained from including 
the final ayah of Sura Bara'a until he came upon it in writtcn form, 
even though he and his fellow Companions could recall it perfecdy 

wcll from memorv. 

vi. Authentication of the Qur'an: The Case of 
the Last Two Verses from Sura Bara'a 

Taw5tur (/>_y) is a common word in the Islamic iexicon; for example, that 
the Qur'an has been transmitted by tawatur or that a certain text has be- 
come established through tawatur. It refers to gathering information from 
multtple channels and comparing them, so that if the overwhelming majority 
agrees on one reading than that gives us assurance and the reading itself 
acqutres authenticity. While no scholarly consensus exists on the number 
of channels or individuals needed to attain tawatur, the gist is to achieve 
absolute certainty and the prerequisites for this may differ based on time, 

19 Az-Zarakhshi, Burhan, 1:238-239. 

20 Ibn Hajar, Fathul Ban, w: 1 3. 

21 ibid, ix:!3. 



place, and the circumstances at hand. Scholars gcnerally insist on at least 

lalf a dozen channels while prcferring that this figurc be much higher, 
since greater numbers make falsification less likely and more diflicult. 

So we return to Sara Bara'a, wherc thc two concluding verses were verificd 
and entered into the Suhu/ based solcly on Abu Khuzaima's parchment 
(ind the obligatory whnesses), backed by the memories of Zaid and some 
cther hitffai. But in a matter as weighty as thc Qur'an how can wc accept 
cne serap of parchment and a fevv Companions* memories as suflicient 
srounds for lawatur? Supposc that in a small class of two or thrcc students 
a professor recites a short, memorabie pocm and wc, dircctly after thc 
keture, individually quiz every student about it; if they all recite thc same 
tiing ihcn wc havc our absohile ceriainly that ihis is what ihc pmfvssin- 
uughl. Thc same can bc cxtcndcd to ihc writtcn word or any combination 
cf wrirten and oral sources, provided of course that no collusion has occurred 
tetween the playcrs, and this is a concept that I mysclf havc elemonstrated 
h classrooms cmpirically. Such was ihc casc wiili Sura Bara'a in that lho 
manimity of lho sources on hand, relativcly meagre though ihey were, 
provided enough grounds for certainty. And to counter any fcars of collusion 
ticrc is a logical argument: these two verses do nol hold anyihing new 
ticologically, do not speak praise of a particular tribc or lamily, do not 
frovide information that is not availabfe elscwherc within thc Qur'an. A 
conspiracy to invent such verses is irrational because no conccivable benelit 
could have arisen from fabricaling them. 22 Under these circumstances 
and given that Allah personally vouches for the Companions' honesty in 
His Book, we can infer that there was indeed suflicient tawatur to sanetion 
nese verses. 

mi. Placement of the Suhuf into thc State Archtves 

Once complete, the compiled Our'an was placed in the 'state archives' 
tnder the custodianship of Abu Bakr. 23 His contribution, we can sum- 
narise, was to collect all first-hand Qur'5nic fragments, then scattered 
about Madinah, and arrange for their transeription into a master volume. 
This compilation was termed Suhuf. It is a plural word (_i»w»: literally, 
shcets of parchment), and I believe it beais a diflerent connotation from thc 
sngular A/ttr/w/"( ._**-*•: whteh now designates a written copy of the Quran). 
At the conclusion of Zaid's efforts all sGras and all verses therein were 
propcrly arranged, most likely penned using the prevalent Madanitc seript 

22 See pp. 290- 1 for an insiance of fabricaiion wliere thc passage has tremendous 
neological tmportance. 

23 Al-Bukhari, Sahih, Fada'ii al-Qur an:3; Abu 'Ubaid, Fada'ii, p. 281; at-Tirmidhl, 
hman, hadith no. 3102. 


and spelling conventions ( j-^' - 1 »*- 1 |*-j) as be was a nati\'e son of Madinah. 
But it seems ihat sheets of unequal size were used for this task. resulting 
in what may have been a disorderly heap of parchments. Thus the plural 
appeliation Suhu/. A mere fiftcen years later, when Caliph 'Uthman sougbt 
to dispatch copies to the far corners of the expanding Muslim realms, the 
rcvenues from military conquests had greatly enhanced the availability of 
quality parchments and he was able to adopt books of equal sheet sizes. 
These came to be known as Mushafs. 

2. 'Umar's Rok in the Spread of the Qur'an 

Appointing 'Crnar as the next Caliph on his deathbed, Abu Bakr entrusted 
his successor with the Suhiif 2i Aside from decisive \ictories on the baitlefield, 
'Umar's reign was marked by the Our'an's rapid spread beyond the confines 
of the Arabian Peninsula. He dispatehed at least ten Companions to Basra 
for the purpose of teacbing the Qiirarv' and likewise sent Ibn Mas'ud 
to Kufa. 26 When a man subsequently informed 'Umar that there was a 
person in KCifa dietating the Holy Qur'an to them solely by heart. 'Umar 
became furious to the point of madness. But discoveriag the culprit to be 
none other than Ibn Mas'ud, and recalling his competence and abilities, 
he calmed down and regained his composure. 

Significant information also exists about the spread of the Qur'an in 
Syria. Yazid bin Abu Sufyan, Syria's governor. complained to 'Umar about 
the masses of Muslims requiring education in Qur'an and Islamic matters, 
and urgently requesting him for teachers. Selecting three Companions for 
this mission - Mu'adh, 'Ubada, and Abu ad-Darda - 'Umar instructcd 
them to proceed to Hims where, after achieving their objcctivcs, one of 
them would journey on to Damascus and another to Palestine. When this 
triumvirat? was satisfied with its work in Hims. Abft ad-Darda' continued 
on to Damascus and Mu'adh to Palestine, leaving 'Ubada behind. Mu'adh 
died soon afterwards, but Abu ad-Darda' lived in Damascus for a long time 
and established a highly reputable cirele, the students under his tutelage 
exceeding 1600. 27 Dividing his pupils into grottps of ten, he assigned a 
separate instruetor for each and made his rounds to check on their progress. 
Those passing this elemenlary level then came under his direct instruetion, 
so that the more advanced students enjoyed the dual privileges of studying 
tvith Abu ad-Darda' and funetioning as iiuermediary teachers.-* 


24 AbO 'Ubaid, Fada'it, p. 281. 

- J See ad-Darimi, Sunan, i: 135, edited by Dahman. 

26 Ibn SaU Tabaqat, vi:3. 

27 Adh-Dhahabi, Seyar ai-A'lam an-A'ubata', ii:344-46. 

28 ibid, ii:346. 


8(> ti 1 1 ■: i r isto itv <ji- imk «^I'R'a.nh: i i.n r 

The same method was applied clsewhere. Abu Raja' al-'Ataradl states 
ihat Abu Musa al-Ash'arl separated his studenis into groups whhin the 
Basra Masjid, 2 " supcrvising nearly ihrcc Iwndrcd.'"' 

In ihc capital, 'Unvar scnt Yazid b. 'Abdulliih b. Qusail tolcach the Qur'5n 
to ihe ouilying Bedouins," and designated Abu Sufyiin as an iiispccior, io 
proceed to their tribes and discovcr thc extcnt to which thcy had Icanicd, '-' 
Hc also appoimcd ihree Companioiis in Madinah lo tcach thc ehildrcn, 
cach with a monthly saiary of liftecn dirhams, :1:t and adviscd diat evcryone 
(induding adults) bc taught in easy scts of fivc vcrscs. : " 

Stabbed by Abu Lu'lu'a (a Christian slave from Persia)' 15 towards the 
end of 23 A.H., 'tJmar refused to nominate a caliph, leaving the decision 
to the people and in the meanlime entrusting lho Suhufio Hafsa, the 
Prophel's widow. 

3. Conclusion 

In serving the Qur'an Abu Bakr acquitted himself most admirably, heeding 
its mandate of two witnesses for establishing authenticity, 3 * 1 and applying 
this rule to the Qur'an's own compilation. The result, though wrilten on 
rudimentary parchments of varytng sizc, constitutcd as sinccie an cffort 
as possible to preserve the Words of Allah. Decisive victories beyond Arabia's 
desert boundaries pushed the fronticnt of Islamic cducation to Palestiiie 
and Syria; 'Umar's reign witnessed the blossoming of schools for the 
memorisation of the Qur'an in both the parched sands of Arabia and the 
rich soils of ihe fertile crescent. But a new concern clouded the liorizon 
diiring the "Uthmani Caliphate, and Zaid bin Thabit's endeavours, as it 
turned out, were not to end with the passing of Abu Bakr. 

29 Al-Baladhuri, Ansab al-Askra/, i: 1 10; Ibn Purais, Fada'il, p. 36; al-Hakim, ai- 
Musiadrak, ii:220. 

30 Al-Faryabi, Fada'ilal-Qur'an,p. 129. 

31 Ibti a\-Ka\bi, Jam/iratan-Misab, p. 143; Ibn Hazm, Jamhralal-Ansab, p. 182. 

32 Ibn Hajar, al-Isaba, i:83, no. 332. 

33 Al-Baihaql, Sunan al-Kubta, vl* 1 24. 

34 Ibu Kathir, FadS'il, vii:495. 

35 William Muir, Anaats of ihe Early Caliphate, p. 278. 
3S Qur'an 2:282. 

Chapter Seven 

During the reign of 'Uthman, selected by popular pledge (1*4) as the third 
Caliph, Muslims engaged in jihad to the reaches of Azerbaijan and Armenia 
in the north, Hailing from various tribes and provinces, these fighting forces 
possessed sundry dialects and the Prophet, out of necessity, had taught 
them to recite the Qur'an in their own dialects, given the difiiculty of having 
them abandon their native tongues so suddenly. But the resultant differ- 
enees in pronunciation now began producing breaches and conilict within 
the community. 

1 . Disputes in Recilation and 'Uthman's Response 

Hudhaifa bin al-Yaman went to 'Uthman directly from the Azerbaijan! 
and Armenian frontier whcre, having unitcd forces from Iraq with others 
from Syria, he had observed regional differences over the pronunciation 
of the Qur'an - differences which had caused frietion. "O Caliph", he 
advised, "take this umma [community] in hand before they diffcr about 
their Book like the Christians and Jews." 1 

Such disagreements vverc not altogether ncvv, for 'Umar had anticipatcd 
this danger during his caliphatc. Having sent Ibn Mas'fid to Iraq, and 
discovered htm teaching in the dialect of Hudhail-' (as Ibn Mas'ud had 
originally learned it), 'Umar rebuked him: 

:l « JjJL» ail V i^i*j <»1* jA$ tsfi t-J*} j*— k J> 
The Qur'an was revealecl in the dialect of Quraish (J* J), so teach 
according to the dialect of Quraish and not that of Hudhail. 

Ibn Hajar's comments are valuable in this regard. "For a non-Arab 
Muslim who desires to read the Qur'an", he says, "the most propitious 
choice is to read according to the Quraishi (^*y) dialect, That is indeed 
oest for him [as all Arabic dialects for him will be of equal difiiculty] ."* 

1 Al-Bnkhari, Sahih, hadith no. 4987; Abu 'L'baid, Fada'it, p. 282. There are many 

other reports concerning this problem. 

One of the major uribes in the Arabian Peninsula at the time. 
'bn Hajar, Fatkul Ban, Lx:9, qnoting AbO DawOd. 
4 iW, ix:27. 


Hudhaifa bin al-Yaman's warning to the Caliph came in 25 A.H., and 
that vcry year 'Uthman rcsolved to end these dispulos. Asscmbling the 

people, he explained the problem and sougiu their opinion o» recital in 
differenl dialects, kecping in mind tliat somc miglit claim a panir ular 
dialcct as superior bascd on their tribal aililialions. ' Whcn asked Ibr bis 
ovvn opinion he replied (as narrated by 'Ali bin Abl Talib), 

"I see that we bring the people on a singlc Mushaf [with a singJe 
diaket] so that there is neither division nor discord." And we said, "An 

cxcellcnt proposal". 

There arc two narrations on how 'Uthman procecdcd with this task. 
In the first of these (which is the more famous) he made copies relying 
exclusively on the Suhuf kept in Hafsa's custody, who was the Prophet's 
widow. A lesser-known narrauon suggests that he first aulhorised the com- 
pilation of an independent Mushaf, using priniary sources, before comparing 
this with the Sukuf. Both versions concur that the Suhufoi Hafsa playcd a 
crilical role in the making of 'Uthman's Mushaf 

2. 'Ulhman Prepares a Mushaf Direclly front the Sulmf 

According to the first report 'Uthman concluded his deliberatkms and 
retrieved the Sukuf Trom Hafsa, arranging immediately for the seribing of 

dupltcate copies. Al-Bara' narrates, 

So 'Uthman sent Hafsa a message stating, "Send us the Sulmf so that 
we may make perfect copies and then return the Suhuf back to you." 
Hafsa sent it to 'Uthman, who ordered Zaid bin Thabit, 'Abdullah bin 
az-Zubair, Sa'id bin al-'As and 'Abdur-Rahman bin al-Harith bin 
Hisham to make dupltcate copies, He told the threc Quraishi men, 
"Should you disagrec with Zaid bin Thabit on any poin t regarding the 
Qur'an, write it in the dialect of Quraish as the Qur'an was revcaied 
in their tongue." They did so, and whcn they liad preparcd severa) 
copies 'Uthman returned the Sukuf [o Hafsa ...' 

:> See Ibn Abi Dawud, al-Masahif, p. 22. Diflerent dates havc been given for this 
inctdent, ranging from 25-30 A.H. I havc adopted Ibu Hajar's stance. See as-Suyuti, 
al-Iiaan, i: 170. 

« Ibn Abi Dawdd, al-Masahif, p. 22. See also Ibn Hajar, Fathul Bari, x:402. 

7 Ibn Hajar, Fathul Bari, ix:l I, hadlth no. 4987; Ibn Ab! Dawfld, al-Masahif, pp. 
19-20; AbO 'Ubaid, Fada'U, p. 282. 


3. 'Uthman Makes an Independen t Copy of the Mushaf 
i Appointing a Committee of Twelve to Oversee the Task 

The second account is somewhat more complex. Ibn Slrin {d. 110 A.H.) 


VVheu 'Uthman decided to collect (^r) the Quran, he assembied a 
committee of twelve from both the Quraish and the Ansar. Among 
them were Ubayy bin Ka'b and Zaid bin Thabit. 

The identities of these twelve can be pieced together from various sources. 
AI-Muarrij as-SadusI states, "The newly-prepared Mushaf was shown to 
(1) Sa'Td b. al-'As b. Sa'id b. al-'As for proofreading;" 9 he further adds (2) 
Nafi' b. Zuraib b. 'Amr b. Naufal.' Others include (3) Zaid b. Thabit, (4) 
Ubayy b. Ka'b, (5) 'Abdullah b. az-Zubair, (6) 'Abdur-Rahman b. Hisham, 
and (7) Kathir b. Afiah." Ibu Hajar lists a few more: (8) Anas b. Malik, (9) 
'Abdullah b. 'Abbas, and (10) Malik b. Abl 'Amir. 12 And al-BaqUlanT com- 
pletes the set: (1 1) 'Abdullah b. 'Umar, and (12) 'Abdullah b. '.Amr b. al-'As. 13 

U. Arranging for an Autonomous Copy 

Uthman commissioned these twelve to managc this task by collecting and 
tabulating all the Qur'anic parchments written in the Prophet's presence." 
1 he great historian Ibn 'Asakir (d. 57 1 A. H.) reports in hts Historjr of Dammu?. 

'Uthman delivered a sermon and said, 'The people havc dtverged in 
their reciiations, and 1 am determined that whoevcr holds any verses 
dictatcd by the Prophet himself musi bring them to mc." So the people 
brouglu their verses, written on parchment and boncs and leaves, and 
anyone contributing to this pile was first questioned by 'Uthman, "Did 
you learn these verses [u. take this dictatkm] dircctly from the Prophet 

IbnSa'd, Tabai/at. iii/2:62. Noie here that Ibn Sirin used the word £+*■ (to collect). 

Al-Mu'arrij as-Sadusi, Kitab Hadhfm m'm,\(isab Quraish, p. 35. 

'W. p. 42. 

Ibn Abl Dawtid. al-Masahif. pp. 20, 25-26. 

Ibn Hajar. Falhul Ban, Lx: 19. 

A detailed study of one of the personal Mushafs jsee pp. 100-2) reveals that these 
v e- were subdivided into more than one group, each engaged in dictation and 
vort:i ng independendy. 


himself ?" AJI contributors answered under oath, 15 and all the collected 
material was individually labelled and tlien handed to Zaid bin Thabil." 1 

Malik bin AbT 'Amir relates, 

I was among thosc uf>on whom thc Mushaf was dictated (from thc 
wriltcn soui'ccs], and if any controvcrsios nrose cniicrrning a partk'ular 
%'erse" they would say, "Where is the scriber [of this parchmentj? Preciscly 
howdtd the Prophet teach him this verse?" And they would resume 
scribing, Ieaving that portion biank and sending for the mau in qucstion 
to clarify his scribing. 17 

Thus an independent copy gradually emerged, with the twelve setting 
aside all unceitainties in spelling convcnlions so that 'Uthman might atlcnd 
lo these personally," 1 Abu 'Ubaid lists a fcw such cases. One uncertainly 
for example lay in the spelling of ai-labut, whether to use an open 't' (o »(Ui) 
or a ciosed one f»^ 1 )- Hani' al-Barbari, a client of 'Uthman, reports: 

t+ij 2 ° t «jl*JJ J,x; V» 4^, ,9 <«j-* ,1» :W ^£ j: 'J J> SLA J^ 
U j t «*iJl J4-» ^jS } t^y^l «; J*-> t>~* ^j-db UJi :Jli 2 ' . «^yl&i J4*U» 

I was with "Uthman vvhen the committee was comparing the Mushaf. 
He seni me to Ubayy bin Ka'b with a shcep's shoulder bone containing 
threc diflercnt words from three dificrent sOras [a word cach from 2:259, 
30:30, and 86:17], asking him to revisc the spcllings. So Ubayy wrotc 
them down [with the revised spcllings]. 

ia. 'Uthman Retrieves the Suhuf from 'A'isha for Comparison 

'Umar bin Shabba, narrating through Sawwar bin Shabib, reports: 

Gotng in to see Ibn az-Zubair in a small group, I asked him why 'Uthman 
destroyed all the old copies of the Quran. . . . He replied, "During 'Umar's 

15 Ibn Manzur, Mukhtasar Tarikh Dimashq, xvi:171-2; see atso Ibn Abi Dawud, al- 
MafShif, pp. 23-24. 

16 A. Jefiery (cd.), Muqadditnaian, p. 22. Labelling (c.g. name of the scriber) may bc 
deduced from the statement of Malik in the next quotation. 

17 Ibn Abi Dawud, al-Masaki/, pp. 21-22. 

18 Ibn Abi Dawud, al-Ma}Shif, pp. 19, 25. 
'« Qur'an 2:259. 

20 Qur'an 30:30. 

21 Qur'an 86:17. 

22 AbQ 'Ubaid, Fada'il, pp. 286-7. 

'uthmAn's mushaf 91 

reign, ari excesstvely talkative man approached the Caliph and told him 
that the people were diflering in their pronurtciation of the Qur'an. 
'LImar resolved therefore to collect all copies of the Qur'an and stand- 
ardise their pronunciation, but he suflered that fatal stabbing before he 
could carry the matter any further. During 'Uthman's reign this same 
man came to remind him of the issue, so 'Uthman commissioned [his 
independent] Mushaf. Then hesentme to [the Prophet's widow] 'A'isha 
to retrieve the parchments upon which the Prophet had dictated the 
Our'an in it°. entirety. The independently-prepared Mushaf was then 
checked against these parchments, and after the correction of all errors 
he ordered that all other eopies of ihe Qur'an be destroyed." 21 

There are some useful details in this narration regarding the acquisition 
of parchments from 'A'isha's custody, thottgh by tradidontst standards the 
narrative chain is weak.- 4 The following report however lends strength to 
the previous one. Ibn Shabba narrates on the authority of Harun bin 'Umar, 
who relates that, 

When 'Uthman vvantcd to make an official copy, he askcd 'A'isha to 
send him those parchments which were dictated by the Prophet and 
which she kept in her house. He then ordered Zaid bin Thabit to correct 
accordingly, as he himsclf nas not frce since he wanted to dcvote his 
time to governing the people and judging among tlicm."' 

Similarly Ibn Ushta {d. 360 A.H./97 1 O.K.) reports in d-Masakif that 
'Uthman, resolving on an autonomous copy using primary sources, sent 
to 'A'isha's house for the Suhiif. In this account a few differences were 
found, with 'Uthman's copy being corrected as nccessary. 2 " 

Gathering tliese narratives together gives us the following: 'Uthman pre- 
pared an independent copy relying entirely on primary sources, which 
mcludcd the Companions' parchments along with additional material 
hetd by 'A'isha. 2 ' 

2:5 Ibn Shabba, Tarikh al-Madiaa, pp. 990-99 1 ; Also as-Suyuti. al-ftaan, ii:272, quoting 
Ibn Ushtah's al-Masafuf. 

One of the narrators is of very low repute (•djp: matruk). 
25 Ibn Shabba, Tarikh al-Madina, p. 997. 
2,i As-Suyutt, al-ltqan, ii:272 

This can also be concluded from the following hadtihs in Sahih of al-Bukhari: 

Zaid bin Thabit reports that when he was compiling the Qur'an during the 
reign of Abtt Bakr, he could not locate two ayahs from the end of Sura Barito 
till he found them with Abu Khuzaima al-Ansari, with no one else possessing 
a first-hand copy. The completcd SuhufwtK kept in Abu Bakr's custody till 
he passed away ... [al-Bukhart, Sahih, hadith no. 49861- " f<) "'- 


tv. 'Uthman Rctricves thc Suhui" from Hafsa for Verificauon 

Ibn Shabba reports, 

»f-»l^! )>\ ji»>: jt J-*L^-J Uj*- : Jli n^jj-^l _,«* j>. w ^» LJa>-» :«~i jjI Jli 

.♦..'-'•«.- : ' •' ' "J' '*Ti ' - - .- 1 i- ' *n- - -. 'TT - - > 

■4 ;;|); "ibai! I^JoJ li) JtiJ ^ 

£. L$5-t*j ^ j^> Jj-1 £. l*^-i jji il^i* (^U» ji^r^i' w~>yC-U : Jli 
J-jli .li_i «j J»ri jj» ,^^»-1 «J»_^ «i^s,* j»j ... l$^£i ^Liity O-jtf ji iX./i- 

27 _ 


Kharija bin Zaid bin Thabit transmhted from his fathcr, Zaid bin Thabit, 
"Whilc wc wcrc copying thc Mushaf I missed an ayah {No. 23 from Sura a\- 

Ahiab) which I used to hear thc Prophei reciting. Wc sought it unti! it was 
found wiih Khuzaima bin Thabit al-Ansari, and then tnscrtcd it into its 
propcr sura within lho Mushaf." [al-Bukhari, Sahih, hadith no. 4988]. 
These two haditlis have caused confusion among some scholars, mainly due to 
thc proximity of thc two namcs. Notc that thc two are distinel: Khuzaima and AbO 
Khuzaima. Now if we read thc Imdittis carefully we see that Zaid used thc word Suku/ 
for the collection during Abu Bakr's reign, and the word Mushaf or MasShif (pl. of 
Mushaf) for the work hc did tinder 'Uthman's supervision. Thus we may safely 
concludc that ihese are two diflcrcnt instances of compilatioh. (Note that in the 
Sahlli, hadith no. 4986 falls into the scction conccrning thc Qur'an's collection during 
AbO Bakr's time, and no. 4988 during 'Uthman's.) If we considcr thc sccond 
compilation to be Zaid's work on an mde/muUnt copy of the Mushaf, then everythitig 
bccomes clear. On the other hand, if wc assuinc that Zaid was simply maktng a 
duplicate copy for 'Uthman based on Abu Bakr's Suhu/, not an autonomous copy, 
then we must confront thc awkward question of wliy Zaid was unablc to locate verse 
No. 23 from Sura al-Ahzab - since al) the verses should have becn right in front of him. 
Of interest also is that Zaid uses the first person singular pronoun in the first 
narration and "the plural 'we', indicating group activity, in the second. Ali of this 
strongly bolsters the view that the second compilation was indeed an independen» 
2» Ibn Shabba, Tarikh al-Madina, pp. 1001-2. 


'lthman's mushaf 93 

Zaid bin ThSbit said, "When I was revising ['Uthman's independent] 
Mushaf I discovered that i( lacked che ayah «... JW j ^-~> jli ^ >, so I 
searched among the Muhajirin and the Ansar [for someone who had 
written it in the Prophet's presence], cill I found k with Khuzaima bin 

ThSbi: al-Ansari. So I wrote it down Then I revised once more, and 

did not find anything [questionable]. 'Uthman then seni to Hafsa and 
asked to borrow the SkIwJ 'which had been entrusted to her; she gave it 
to hini only after he vowed to return it. In eomparing these two, I 
found no discrepancies. So I gave ii back to 'Uthman and he, with an 
elated spirit, ordered the people to make duplicate copies of the Mushaf." 

So this time the independent copy was rechecked against the official 
&//«//" which resided with Hafsa. 

One may wonder wliy Caliph 'Uthman took the trouble to eompile an 
autonomous copy when the end product was to be compared with the Suhu/ 
an\A\ay. The likeliest reason is a synibolic one. A decade earlier thousands 
of Companions, engaged in the battles against apostasy in Yarnama and 
elsewherc. were unable to partictpate in the •SWin/scompilation. In drawing 
froni a larger pool of written materials, 'Uthman's independent copy pro- 
vidcd these survivitig Companions with an opporiimity to partakc of this 
momentous endeavour. 

In the above account no inconsistencies were found between the Suhuf 
and the independent Mushaf, and from this two broad conclusions emerge: 
first. the Qur'anic texi was ihoroughly stable from the earliest days and 
not (as some allege) (luid and volatite until the tiiird cermiry; and second, 
the methods involved in compilation diiring both reigns were meticulous 
and accurate. 

4. The Sanctioning and Distribution of 'Ulhman's Mushaf 

i. The Final Copy Reacl to the Companions 

This definitive copy, once verified against the Suhuf, was 

'*read to the Companions in 'Uthman's presence.""' With the final 
recitation over, he dispatehed duplicate copies for distribution throughout 
the many provinces of the Islamic nation. His general injuncuon that 
people "write down the Mushafs" suggests that he wanted the Companions 
to make duplicate copies of the Mushaf for their own personal use. 

•-' Ibn Kathir, Fado'il, vii:«0. 



a. The Number of Certified Copies Made 

How many copies did 'Uthman distribule? According to some reports, 
four: Kufa, Basra, and Syria, vvilh the lasi one being kept in Madinah; 
another account adds Makkah, Yemen and Bahrain. Ad-Dani favours the 
firsl repoti. 3 * 1 Prof. Sh<tuql Daif believes howcvcr that cight were made, 
because 'Uthman retained one for himself." In support of this, we know 
that Khalid bin Iyas made a comparison betwcen the Mushaf kept by 
'Uthman and the one prepared for Madinah, 32 and so the premise of eight 
copies seems the most logical. Al-Ya^ubT, a Shiitc htstorian, says that 
'UthmSn sent Mushafs to Kufa, Basra, Madinah, Makkah, Egypt, Syria, 
Bahrain, Yemen and al-jazirah, for a total of nine. 51 There is also e\'idence 
that during the process of preparing these copies, some people seribed 
additiona! ones for their own personal use. A study of one of these unofficial 
copies is given in pp, 100-2. 

iii. 'Uthman Burns Ali Other Manuscripts 

With the task complete, the ink on the final copy dry, and duplicate copies 
dispatehed, there was no need for the numerous fragments of the Qur'an 
cireulating in people's hands. So all sucli fragments were burned, Mus'ab 
bin Sa'd asserts that the people were pleascd with 'Uthman's decision; at 
the very least no one voiced any objections. 34 Other reports conlirm this 
unanimous approval, including 'Ali bin Abt Talib who says, 

:i:> «Uu^ L. >, jf. VI vJwl^il J J«i ^JJi J»i U *ii\ji» :,_Jll. ^i j, J* Jli 

By Allah, hc did wliat he did wjlh llicse fragments iil ih c prescitcc of 

us alt [ie. and nonc of us objected]. 

'w. 'Uthman Sends Reciters Along with Mushafs 

No copy was sent fortli without a qari'{!£j& : reciter). These included Zaid 
b. Thabit to Madinah, 'Abdullah b. as-Sa'ib to Makkah, al-Mughlra b. 
Shihab to Syria, 'Amir b. 'Abd Qais to Basra and Abu 'Abdur-Rahman 

as-Sularm to Kufa. 'Abdul-Fattah al-Qadi says: 

30 Ad-Dani, at-Mugni', p. 1 9; see afso Ibn Kathir (who favours seven), Fada'il, vii:445. 

31 Shauq! Daif, Kitab as-Sab'a of Ibn Mujaliid, iniroduciion, p. 7. 

32 See pp. 97-99. 

33 Al-Ya'qubi, Taiikh, ii:170. 

3+ Abu 'Ubaid, Fada'il, p. 284; ad-Dani, al-Muym', p. 18. 
35 Jbn Abi Dawud, al-Masaliif, p. 22; see also pp. 12, 23. 

'UTHMAN'S mushaf 95 

ja *j-; u »j^a j*i tsjk .u-ii «v>» j* j*-ij j? ovSo i^iuii ^LiJt jjs ju 
jyr -U v ty_)jJi j J^b j*^ 1 J* ■ Ui *' **! "'v*' 1 ^' J* c*' , • , J 5 * 3 '- i;,, -^ , 

"Each of these scholars recited to the people of his respective city in 
the marmer he had learned it through authenticated, multiple channels 
going back lo the Prophet, insofar as these channels lay iri complete 
. agreement wiih each other and fit the Mushaf 's consonanta! skeleton. 
Any mode of recitation arriving through a stngle channel (or eontaining 
verses that had been abrogated during the Prophet's lifctime) was dis- 
carded. Dispatching reciters with the Mushafs meant limiting the possi- 
bilities that were compatible with the consonantal script to only those 
that enjoyed authenticated and multiple backjng.,.. Scnding a scholar 
with every Mushaf was, thcrefore, elucidating that proper recitation was 
dependent on the learning through direct contact with teachers whose 
transmission channels reached to the Prophet, not simply a produet of 
script or spelling conventions." 37 

Early copies of 'Uthman's Mushaf were largely consonantal, frequcntly 
dropping vowels and contaimng no dots, :w much !ike the image in Figure 
7.1 which is taken from a Mushaf in the Hejazi script. r! '' 

Thcse copies could be read crroneously in many difi'ercnt ways» In 
undertaking this second compilation, 'Uthman's main purpose was totlim- 
inate all oceasion for disputes in recitation; scnding a Mushaf by itself Q r 
with a reciter at liberty to devise any reading, was contrary to the unity 
'Uthman sought to establish within the populace. The existence of total 
unity in the Qur'atiic texts chroughout the worid for fourteen centuries 
between all countries and all divergent Muslim sects, is proof enough of 
Uthman's unparalleled success in gathering all Muslims upon a stngle text. 

3S 'Abdul-FattSh al-Qadi, "al-Qjra'at (t Nazar al-MustashriqTn wa al-Mulhidin" 
Majalku al-Azhar, vol. 43/2, 1391 (1971), p. 175. 

The English rendering is not verbatim bui is only meant to convey the narration's 

For a detail diseussion on dots, see pp. 1 35-4 1 . 

Some of the first ofFicial 'Uthmani Mushafs were most likely written in the IfejazT 
senpt. There are a handfut of Mushafs attributed to 'Uthman worldwide fsee nn. 
J l i-8]. While it is impossible to confirm or deny such claims, giveti that the copies 
wernselvcs are mute on this point, such attributions may imply that they were actually 
topied from one of the Mushalk dispatehed by ' Uthman. 

Otie of the allegations is that the 'Uthmani Mushaf being void of dots caused 
«ivergences in the readings of the Qur'an. See Chapter 11 for a thorottgh analysis of 
«his subject. 



Figure 7.1: Exampk of a very early Mushaf writkn in the Hejaii script. ,\'ok the 
lack of skeklal dols, Courlesy of the National Archive Museum of Yemen. 

v. 'Uthman's lnstructions willi the Mushafs Hc Seni 

1 . 'Uthman decreed that all personal Mushafs diftering from his own 
should be burned, as failure to eliminate these would engender further 
strife. Anas bin Malik reports, 

jwJU.1 *k*1 j, j^r J* J! J-j'j » . . . ilJU j, ta -( 4^1 :<j^ji\ JB 

*'«<<-> J«.ji ^JJl oij^ili ^jJU*j ^ju-_a» JS - l >3y^ O' ?*jj) ^j^-ac. 

Sciidiuj* cach Muslim arniy itsowtt Mushaf, 'Ullniiaii iiistuuicd 
(hem to buni all other copies which diltered froin his. 

Anas' statement represents only one possible seenario out of many. 
According to other narratives, 'Uthman ordained that all earlier 
copies were to be toru or burned. 1 - In another account, by erasing 
away the ink. Abu Ojlaba states, "'Uthman wrote to every centre, 
'I...have erased what was in my possession, now erase what is in 
yours'." 43 Once, a delegation Iravclled from Iraq to Madinah and 
visited Ubayy's son, informing him that they had journeyed with 
great hardship solcly to see Ubayy's Mushaf Hc replied thai 'Uthman 
had taken it away. Perhaps thinking that he was simply reluctant, 
they repeated their request and he repeated his answer. 44 

Ibn Hajar says that despite most reports incorporating the word 
at-tahriq ( j*y*di: burning), every possibility must bc considered. The 

41 Ibn Abl Dawud, al-MasShif, pp. 19-20; see also al-Bukharl, Safiilt, Babjam'i al- 
Qur'an, hadith no. 4987; Ibn Kaihlr, l'ada'it, vii:442. 
« Ibn Hajar, Fathul Bari, ix:20. 
« ibid, ix;2L. 
+"* Ibn Abi Dawud, al-Majahif, p. 25. 



fate of each fragment rested with the individual possessing it: whether 
to erase, tear, or burn.* 5 1 believe one more possibility exists. Some 
people may havc chosen co compare their personal Mushafs with 
'Uthman's and. vvhere differences appeared, to amend them. 'Abdul- 
A' la bin Hakam al-Kilabi's statement bears this out: 

""Entering the house of Abu Musa al-Ash'ari, I discovered him 
in the company of Hudhaifa bin al- Yaman and 'Abdullah bin 
Mas'ud on the top floor.... They were gathered around a Mushaf 
sent by 'Uthman, accompanied by an order to correct their own 
copies in accordance with his. Abu MQs5 told them, 'Whatever 
you find in my Mushaf thnt is additionai [to 'Uthman's], do not 
remove it, and whatever you find missing, write it dovvn."" 6 

2. 'Uthman's second injunction was not to recite against the script of 
the Mushaf. The unanimous agreement to dispose of (or amend) all 
earlier copies made 'Uthman's script and spelling the new Standard; 
from dien on every Muslim learning the Qur'an had to conform with 
the 'Uthmani text. VVhere a person's previous schooling was at odds 
with this text, he was not granted Icave to recite or teach in that di- 
vergent manner. 47 So what could such a person do? Attending an 
ofiicial reciter's circle was the simplest solution, to learn the Book in 
accordance with the conditions latd and thcreby regain the privileges 
of teaching and recitation. 'Uthman's unparatleled success in this 
rcgard is proof positivc that his actions echoed the voice of the 

5. Studies on 'Uthman's Mushaf 

Assurance in the Qur'an as the Word of Allah, and as the supreme source 
of legislation and guidance for all entities, is a cornerstone of every Muslim's 
beliefs. This veneration impclled 'Uthman's contemporaries to quickly begin 
serutinising his Mushaf, trckking to the variotts locales which had received 
copies and undertaking a word-by-word (in faeta letter-by-letter) inspection, 
to uncover any disparities between the copies he had dispatehed. Many 
ooks were penned on this subject. but I will confine myself to just one. 
Khalid b. has b. Sakhr b. Abi al-Jahm, examining the Mushaf in 'Uth- 
wan s personal possession, noticed that this particular copy differed from 

'bn Hajar. Fatkul B5n. ix;21. 
* Ibn Abi Dawfld, al-Matihif, p. 35. 
. ^his concepi will be clarified in a subsequent diseussion (Chapter 12). 



thc Mushaf of Madinah iri twelvc placcs. w To illustratc thc nadiru of 
ihcse diflerences, I havc listcd thcm all in ihc tablo bclow." 1 " 



Mushaf of Madinah 

Mushafs of 'Ulhman, 
hlifa and Basra 

Prtml-Day Mushaf "■"* 




(^•'/SVi j~»jj 


•^"Jl'j*^ 1 — 

•A* J! 'j* j 1 — ; 

ijAk* ,],] Vtfjl*** 



\jji jjjji J_jij 

i^*i -jJJi J j,, 



J /- j* 





IOj>~. 1_)0>JI jjijl 

i j-Uoi j^ 



Ui> 5 'U+i. IjJ- OJ»-V 

Ui^. 141. Ijj». Ab-Sf 

Uli.:.* l^u '_£>• 0-lj-S h 


|M-J».W> I >J*J* 






iUJi ^ jS'l ^ ^iij oi ji 









^j-iiV sS «^" U l+jj 

j_iV> s* 1 - 1 * u *-*-».> 

JiV 'U' '■" L. l+jj 


j^J-i ^1 «ili ,it» 

4_wi-l ^1 ^* -JJi Oli 

j_J-i ^1 »» «W aji 


Ifjp wib^p'^U 

Lfjj Jl>o V j 

t+j* ,J>U^ v. 

Clearlyj 'Uthman's personal copy is pcrlcclly congmcni wilh thc presi: M 
Mushaf cireulating in our hands/' 3 while thc Mushaf of Madinah contains 

minor deviations that can be summed up as follows: (1) an extra i in ^»fy, 

48 The faet is that the Mushaf of Madinah was tos» {or destroyed) during the civil 
strife which ensucd thc day 'Uthnian was assassinaied. [Ibn Shabba, Tarikh al-Madtna, 
pp. 7-8.] How then were various seholars able 10 exaniinc thc Mushaf resoved for 
Madinah? The answer is two-fold. Firstly, Abu ad-Darda', a higlily renowned Com- 
panion who died thc same year as 'Uthman, carried out extensive studies on the 
Mushafs dispatehed by 'Uthman including thc onc kept in Madinah. His findings, 
tabuiated before the Mushaf of Madinah had disappeared, served as a templatc for 
subsequcnt seholars. [See for example Abu 'Ubaid, Fada'il. pp. 330-2.] Sccondly (and 
perhaps more importantly) these seholars, who could 110 longer analyse the Mushaf 
of Madinah per se, often state in their writings that they examined "the Mushafs of the 
pcople of Hejaz fwestern Arabia]." Meaning, that what they esamined were auihen- 
ticatcd duplicates of the Mushaf of Madinah, made by wcll-known Companions or 
seholars for their own personal use prior to the Mushafs disappearance (see this 
work, the text following the table p. 101). in this way they were able to sidesiep the 
actttal Mushafs loss, anti carry out detailed analysis of its text anyway. 

49 Ibn Abi Datvad, al-Masdltif, pp. 37-38, 41. The same inJbrmatio» bui llirough a 
different isnad; see also Abu 'Ubaid, Fada'il, pp, 328-9. 

r, ° Bascd on thc narrativc of Hafs from 'Asim (representing onc of the seven unani- 
mously accepted authoritative reciter's of the Qur'an). 

*' See Ibn Mujahid, Kitab as-Sab'a, o. 390. Ibn Kalhir, Nafi', and Ibn 'Anvr rcad: 
(U#j. \jJ-) as found in the Mushafs of Maltkah, Madinah and Syria. While Abu 'Amr, 
'Asim, Hamza and al-Kasai read: (t*- U*-) as found in the Mushafs of Basra and Kdfa. 

M In this entry there is an error, in that the first two columns appear to bc swapped. 
1 have tried to correct this; Allah knows best. 

"uthman's mushaf 99 

(2) a missing initial ) 'm \y-J-*; (3) a missing initial j 'm J>L; (4) a double 4 
in 3^jt', (5) a missing initial j 'm jj-iJi ; (6) an extra f in U41*; (7) j instead of 
_> rfc. Totalling a mere thirteen letters in 9000 lines, these variations 
a re inconsequential to the meaning of each verse and bear no alteration 
to the semantics whatsoever. But they cannot be attributed to carelessness. 
Zaid bin Thabit, in each case fmding both readings to be authentic and 
of equal status, retained them in different copies. 54 The inclusion of both 
side by side would only have wrought confusion; alternatively, placing one 
of them in the margin would imply a lesser degree of authenticity. By 
pJacing them in different copies he accommodated them on equal terms. 

The modern approach to textual criucism requires that, when variations 
arise between two manuscripts of equal status, the editor cites one of the 
two in the core text while the deviations are consigned to footnotes. This 
method is unjust however, as it demotes the value of the second copy. Zaid's 
scheme is much the fairer; by preparmg muhiple copies he sidesteps any 
implications that this or that reading is superior, giving each variant its 
just due. 55 

Many other scholars expended their time and fatigue 'm comparing 'Uth- 
mSn's Mushafs, reporting what they found with sincerity and-attempting 
to hide nothing; Abu ad-Darda 1 , a noted Companion, worked extensively 
on this subject before passing away within a decade of their dispatch- 
ment, leaving his widow to transmit his findings. 51 " For simplicity's sake I 
have decided to forego any additional lists. 57 But their findings, when taken 
together, are startling. AJI differences in the Mushafs of Makkah, Madinah, 
Kufa, Basra, Syria, and 'Uthman's master copy involve single letters, such 
as: j, J>, 1, ... etc, the only exception being the exclusion of y ('he') in 
one verse where the meaning is in no way affected. These variations amount 
to no more than forty charactcrs scattered throughout six Mushafs. 

A final word of clarification: these early scholars based their studies only 
on the official copies of the Mushaf, as sent by 'Uthman himself, or on 
duplicate copies made and kept by wel!-known Companions and Quranic 
scholars. Theirs was not a research into the private copies kept by the 
public at large (which must have numbered in the thousands), because 
the official Mushafs were the Standard and not the other way around. 

* AbO 'Ubaid, Fada'il, p. 333; see also ad-Dant, al-Mugni', pp. 1 18-9. 

This is also ihe methodologv of the early muhaddithm. In comparing diflerent copies 

"K same hadith manuscript, they either mention one copy's test ukhout reference 

v anattons, or cite all the variations inside the core text itself instead of placing notes 

ine margins. In the $ahili of Muslim for histance, the hadith on salat no. 245 indicates 

>nlv Ibn Numair's narration; ihree hadiths earlier (salat no. 242), he provides a full 

w»unt of the different narrations while keeping them inside the core text. 

6 See AbO 'Ubaid, Fada'il, p. 330. 

See for example Abu 'Ubaid, Fada'il, pp. 328-333; also ad-D3ni, al-Mugni', pp. 


i. Studies on the Mushaf of Malik bin Abl 'Amir al-Asbahl 

Here we delve into a comparison betwecn 'Uthman's Mushaf and another, 
personal copy kept by a well-known scholar. Malik bin Anas (94-1 79 a.h. 
/7 12-795 C.E.) once handed this Mushaf to his students 5 " and recounted 
its history: it belonged to his grandfather, Malik bin Abt 'Amir al-Asbaht 
{d. 74 A.H./693 C.E.), a student of Caliph 'Umar,''" who had writteu ii down 
during 'Uthman's preparation of the Mushafs. 60 Malik bin Anas' students 
quickly hoted some of its feacures: 

• It was decorated with silver. 

• It contained sura separators in black ink along an ornamental band, 
like a chain running along the entire line. 

• It had ayah (verse) separators, in the form of a dot. 61 
Inirigued by ihis fmd, the students comparcd Malik's Mushaf on llie one 

hand, and die Mushafs of Madinah, Kufa, Basra, and 'Uthman's master 
copy on the other. Malik's Mushaf, they found, diflcrcd from the Mushafs 
of Kufa and Basra (and 'Uthman's master copy) in eight characters, and 
from the Mushaf of Madinah in only four. These variations are summarised 
below: 62 



Mushafs of 

'U Aman, Kufa 

and Basra 

Mushaf of 

Malik's Mushaf 

Mushaf 63 



r^A ^ J* JJ 

r** 1 /! W-i ^r"jb 

^AU-.^} X > 

r* K A W* J*i> 



; >" J! ' j*j*— J 

ijik> jHy-_,L- 


•>*•• J! x *)—i 



i^-T^iii J^_, 

I^T^j)! J^i 

'>-Tjii]l Jji 

i^T^jJi Jjk) 




f^^M J' 

r&*>j; jtj> 


58 These included Ibn al-Q3sim, Ashhab, Ibn Wahb, Ibn 'Abdul- Hakam, and othcrs. 

59 Ibn Hajar, 1aqrib al-Tahzib, p. 5 i 7, entr>' no. 6443. 

60 Ad-Dani, at-MlMam, p. 17. 

" Examples of sura and ayah separators from numerous Mushafs are provided in 
the next chapter. As an aside, I came across this statemcnt by A. Grohmann: "I have 
suggested, as far as sura separators are concerned, they were taken over from Greek or 
Syriac manuscripts, in which they markcd the beginning . . ." [A. Grohmann, "The 
Problem of Dating Early Qur ans", Der Islam, Band 33, Hcft 3, pp. 228-9]. It is bot» 
aggravating and amusing how determined OrientaJists are to credit other cultures with 
seemingly every singk Muslim achievement - even something as simple as separating 
one verse from the next with a dot! 

62 Ad-Dani, in his book al-Mugni' [p. 1 16] memions the four diserepancies between 
the Mushafs of Malik and Madinah, continuing that "the resi of Malik's Mushaf is 
according to the Mushaf of Madinah as deseribed by Isma'tl bin Ja'far al-Madani." 
Thus in preparing the chart I have taken advantage of al-Madanl's work. [Sce Abft 
'Ubaid, Faaa'U, pp. 328-9; ad-Dani, ai-Muani', pp. 1 12-4.] 

63 Bascd on the narrative of Hafs from 'Asim. 



Mushafs of 

'Uthrnan, Kufa 

and Basra 

l jiAji ji jjl j 

L^- Ijv». Jjjr'i' 

Mushaf of 


I j irJI ji jjl 

;4 u^. i j* jv* 

A/a/ito A/tyAa/ 


L^i. 1_r*- O^srV 
















* : ^. -" ULjJ) 


^iil y. *lil jli 

jjj-l ^1 411 jl» 

^aJl y, JJ| jji 

^Jjl y. «Ul OJ> 


W_i* ^J»Wx V J 

l^-it ,_5l>~ VJ 

1 j.»C J>\±u Vj 

t+O* wiUv; Vj 

From this chart we note thai Malik's Mushaf remains identical to the 
Mushaf of Madinah unti! sura 41; from sQra 42 onwards, his Mushaf is iri 
perfect harmony with the Mushafs of 'Uthrnan, Kufa and Basra. \Vhile acting 
as onc of the twelve committee members who scribed 'Uthman's Mushaf, 
Malik was simultaneously writing this Mushaf for his own personal use. 
Judging from the above list we can infer that he was first put to work with 
the group that eventually prepared the Mushaf of Madinah. Having finished 
live-sL\th of that Mushaf, he then switched to the group which was preparing 
the Mushafs for Kufa and Basra; thus the final one-sixth agrees with the 

This provides us with a measure of insight into the preparation of the 
offieial copies: it was a team effort where some dictated, and others wrote. 
1 he more exciting point, in my opinion, is the initiative and resourcefulness 
of individuals who penned their own copies. We do not know exactly how 

w See Ibn Mujahid, Kitab as-Sab'a, p. 390. Ibn Kathlr, Nafi', and Ibn 'Amir read: 
<U*> i» as found in the Mushafs or Maklcah, Madinah and Syria. VVhile AbQ 'Amr, 
Asjm, Hamza and al-Kasfi'i read: (l*i. i» as found in the Mushafs of Basra and Kufa. 
In this entry there seems to be an error. The list (as originally provided by ad- 
Dani to show the difTerences between the Mushafs of Malik and Madinah) includes 
5 ,- erse as well, bui does not show any discrepancy between the two. Having kept 
'he text as printed, I must conclude nevenheless that the wording in Malik's Mushaf 
should be 


many of these private copies were scribed; in the statement recorded by 
I bn Shabba, 

"'Uihman ordered the pcople to write down the Mushafs." This can 
be taken to mean that people were encouragcd to pcn copies for thcir 
own use. 

The Mushaf of Malik bin Abl 'Amir al-Asbahl contained both ayah and 
sura separators, whiie 'Uthman's official copies contained neither. This lack 
may have been a deliberate tactic on the Caiiph's part, perhaps to cnsure 
that the text could handle more than one arrangemcnt of verse separaiion, 
or as an added obstacle in the face of anyone attempting to read on his own 
without the supervision of a certified teacher. Many scholars assume that 
any old Mushaf bearing ayah and sura separators must have been written 
subsequent to 'Uthman's Mushaf, but given this example we can see that 
that is not necessarily true. 

6. Al-Hajjaj and His Contribution to the Mushaf 

From Caliph 'Uthman we now turn our gaze to al-Hajjaj bin Yusuf ath- 
Thaqafl (d. 95 A.H.), governor of Iraq during the Umayyad Caliphate and 
a man of considerable notortety, His unflinching, iron-fisted rule won him 
many unflattcring remarks in the annals of Iraq's history. Ironically hc also 
played a role in serving the Qur'an, though even in this regard he had no 
shortage of enemies. Ibn Abi Dawud quotes ' Auf bin AbTjamila (60- 1 46 
A.H.), aUeging that al-Hajjaj altered the 'Uthmani Mushaf in eleven places. 6 ' 
Closer examination reveals that 'Auf, though a trustworthy j>erson, had Shiite 
tendencies as well as being anti-Umayyad. 68 AI-HajjaJ, one of the strongest 
towers in the Umayyad garrison, would have been a natural target for him; 
any report issuing from the opposite camp must be approachcd with extreme 
caulion. Additionally Mu'awiya (tlie first Umayyad ruler) fouglu 'Ali on 
the pretext of 'Uthman's blood, and this makes al-Hajjaj's supposed changes 
in the 'Uthmani Mushaf particularly implausible, as it would harm the 
Umayyad cause. 

Whatever the truth, the following is the list of words al-Hajjaj is accused 
of altering: 1 ' 9 

66 Ibn Shabba, Tarikh al-Mattma, p. 1 002. 
* 7 Ibn Abi Dawud, at-Mafalii/, p. 1 17 

68 Ibn Hajar, Taqrib at-T<ihzib, p. 433, entry no. 5215. 

69 Ibn Abi Dawfld, al-Masahif, pp. 1 1 7-8. 




SSra: verse 

'Ulhman's Mushaf 

Al-Hajjaj's alkged 







^l^)i* 1 jA 

Vsrl^^ "J=_^4 




^js-< u*^ 1 y 




JjjL ,^jji ul 


23:87 and 89 

*13 J *i_- 

*lii oy_jV 



<**.!*• J' 





J*"/ V 



... ., ,. ,. ; _. 

i' ' i'* -'• 'J 

l' !' "- l' ' -' ' "'O'"' 



Cr-sjs*' 1 - Cr* 

j- T > <<-*,>* 



1 j? j ^ 

'^ ' i^* 





Long before 'Auf bin Abl Jamila cast his accusation against al-Hajjaj, 
scholars poured over all of 'Uthman 's official coptes and meticulonsly com- 
pared thcm lettci-by-letter; thc variants mentioned by these early scholars 
do nottally with the variants meniioned by 'Auf. The Mushafs commissioned 
by 'Uthman did not incorporaic dots, ; " and cven by al-Hajjaj's era the use 
of dots was by no means ubiquitous. There are several words in the above 
table vvhich, with the removal of dots, become identical." So then, howcould 
hc have modificd these words when the dots werc absent and the skeletons 
were precisely the same?'- None of the alleged altcrations bear any weight 
on thc mcanings of these verses, and the accusation itself (in light of the 
above) seems baseless.' l The following case, mentioned by Ibn Qutaiba, 
may providc a cluc to an alternative intcrprctation. 

Biiscd on ' Asim a)-Jahdari*s rcport, al-Hajjaj appointed him, Najiya b. 
Rumh and 'A(T b. Asma' to scrutinise Mushafs wiilt thc aim of tearing 
up any that deviatcd ironi the Mushaf of 'Uthman. The owner of any 
such Mushaf was to be compensated sixty dirliams.' 4 

Refer to Chapters 9 and 10 for a discussion on possibly why 'UthmSn chose not 
to incorporaie dots. 
' Sudi as f- f-' -i » and , ■-» '-• ■«•■ The same may l>e said about examples 3 and 4. 
- As for example I in the table, earlier wc mentioned that the spelling 'Uthman 
decided upon for this phrase was: «^-a i. 

■ It may be that he carried om the changes t» his own personal copy, as was the 
case with 'Ubaiduliah b. Ziyad, who standardiscd the orthography (spelling) in his own 
copy [see this work p. 133]. Had al-Hajjaj made any changes to the actual "Uthmant 
Mushaf, neither the Muslim community nor those in power would have kept silent. 
Morcover the Abbasids, successors to the Umayyad dynasty, would have exploited a,n^ 
such action for its full potential. 
74 Ihn Outaiba, Ta'wit Mmhkil al-Qur'an. p. 51. 

104 THli H1STORY OK THE OJJR'aNK; 111X1' 

A few sudi Mushals may have escaped clcslruciion, bcing corrrcted in- 

stead by erasure of the ink and a fresh coating with ihc sc.ribe's pen. Some 
might have erroneously interpreted this act as al-Hajjaj's attempt to alter 
the Qur'an. 

Following 'Uthman's lead, al-Hajjaj also distributed copies of ihe Qur'an 
to various cities. 'Ubaiduilah b. 'Abdullah b. 'Utba states that the Mushaf of 
Madinah was kept in the Prophet's Mosque and read from every moming;" 3 
in the civil strife surrounding 'Uthman's assassination someone absconded 
with it. Muhriz b. Thabit reports from his father (who was among al-Hajjaj's 
guards) that al-Hajjaj commissioned several Mushafs,' 6 and sent one of 
them to Madinah. 'Uthman's family found this distasteful, but when they 
were asked to bring forth the original, that it may be recited from again, 
they declared that the Mushaf had been deslroyed ( w~-»' ) on the day of 
'Uthman's assassination. Muhriz was informed that 'Uthman's master copy 
still survived in the possession of his grandson, Khalid b. 'Amr b. 'Udiman, 
bui we can assume that the Mushaf sent by al-Hajjaj was adopted for public 
recitation in the Prophet's Mosque, in lteu of the original. According to as- 
Samhudl, who quotes Ibn Zabala, 

al-Hajjaj sent the Qur'an to major cities, including a large one to Mad- 
inah, anti was the first to dispatch the Mushaf to towns. 

Ibn Shabba says, 

And when [the Abbasid ruler] al-Mahdt became Caliph he sent another 
Mushaf to Madinah, which is being read from even now. The Mushaf 
of al-Hajjaj was removed and kept inside a box next to the pulpk. 78 

Al-Hajjaj's role as regards the Qur'an was not confined to commissioning 
further Mushafs. Abu Muhammad al-Himmam reports that al-Hajjaj once 
called for a gathering of the huffai and those who recited the Holy Book 
professionally. Taking his seat among them, for hc was of the former group, 
he asked them to count the number of charaeters in the Qur'an. Once 

n ll)l) Shabba, Tarikh al-Madlna, p. 7; also, lini QuuiiIm, 'I/i'wi! Mmhkil af-Qu> J an. 

P- 51. 

'* Hc did this to accommodate the inercase in the Muslim population which had 
occurred berween 'Uthman's time and his own (over half a century), which had invar- 
iably resuhed >n an increased demand for Mushafs. We haw no accoum howcver as 
to their numl>cr or where ilicy were dispatehed to. 

77 As-Samhndi, Waja' al-WaJa', i:668, as quotcd by al-Munaggid, Etudes <ie Palevgrajihie 
Atabe, Beirut, 1972, p. 46. 

7 " Ibn Shabba, TartkJi al-Madma, pp. 7-ti. 


finished, they unanimously agreed on the round figure of 340,750 char- 
acters. His curiosity being far from expended, he then sought to discover 
at which character lay half of the Qur'an, and the ansvver was found to 
be in Sura 18 verse 19, at the character j in _ j M ?jU. Then he asked where 
each one seventh was in the Qur'an, and the tally was: the first seventh 
in Sura 4 verse 55 at * in J-»; the second in Sura 7 verse 1 47 at i in cJ»-»; 
the third in Sura 1 3 verse 35; the fourth in Sara 22 verse 34; the fifth in 
Sura 33 verse 36; the sixth in Sura 48 verse 6 and the final seventh in the 
remaining part. His next aim was to uncover the location of each third and 
fourth of the Qur'an.''' Ai-Himmarii mentions that al-Hajjaj would foUow-up 
the progress of the conjmittee every night; the entire undertaking required 
four months. 80 

Al-Munaggid urites that he came across a Mushaf in Topkapi Sarayi 
(Istanbul), No. 44, where the notes indicated that it was penned by Hudaij 
b. Mu'awiya b. Maslama al-Ansari for 'Uqba b. Nafi' al-Fihri in the year 
49 A.H. He casts doubt on the date, partiy because of folio 3b which contains 
a statistical count of every letter of the alphabet within the entire Qur'an. 
Statistical analysis was too advanced a concern for Muslims of the first 
century A.H., he argues. 81 Given al-Hajjaj's initiative in this regard, al- 
Munaggid's doubts are ill-founded in my opinion. 

Our computer contains a platn-text copy of the Qur'an without diacritical 
marks; with the aid of a small program we counted 332,795 characters. Al- 
Hajjaj's methodology is unknown to us: was shadda considered a character? 
What about an alif that is read bu t not written (e.g. ^iU)? Despite lacking 
these particulars, the proximity of our computer figure with that obtained 
by al-Hajjaj's commtttee well over thirteen centuries ago, indicates that 
those four intensive months of counting really did take place. 

7. Muskafi in the Aiarketplace 

In the early days, according to Ibn Mas'ud, a person desiring a copy of 
the Mushaf would simply approach this or that volunteer and request his 
assistance; 8 ' 2 this is seconded by Ali bin Husain (d. 93 a.h.) who recounts 
that Mushafs were not bought or sold, and that a man would fetch his 
own parchments to the pulpit and ask for volunteering scribes. A string 
of volunteers would then be engaged, one after another, till the task was 
complete." 3 When Muhil once quarrelled with Ibrahim an-Nakha'i that 

79 Ibn Abi Dawod, al-Alasahif, pp. 1 19- i 20. 

80 ibtd,p. 120. 

81 S. al-.\lunaggid. Etudes De Paleographie Arabe, pp. 82-83. 

82 Ibn Abi Dawud, ai-Masfyif, p. 160. 

83 ibid, p. 166. 



people needed Mushafs to recite, Ibrahim replied, "Buy the parchment 
and ink and have the he!p of volunteers".* 4 But with the Muslim population 
swelling beyond the frontiers of the Arabian Peninsula, the rise in demand 
for copies of the Qur'an placed tremendous strain on volunteer scribes and 
triggered a new phenomenon: the paid copyist. 

This new profession brought in its wake a theological dilemma, about 
the legitimacy of paying someone to serve the Word of Allah. A person may 
only sel! items that bolong to him or her, many reasoncd, so on what basis 
could the Quran be sold when it was not the property of an individual, but 
of ihc Crcator? The majority of scholars dislikcd the idea of paid copying 
and of introducing Mushafs as a marketplace commodky, among them I bn 
Ma'ud {d. 32 A.H.), 'Alqama (d. aiter 60 A.H.), Masruq (d. 63 A.H.), Shuraih 
(d. 80 A.H.), Ibrahim an-Nakha'i (d. 96 A.H.), Abu Mijlaz (d. 106 a.h.) and 
others,*-'' while Ibu al-Musayylb (d. after 90 a.h.) spoke staunchly againsl 
it. 8 " Thcre were others, however, who sought to tempcr their collcagues' 
criticism by pointing out that the paymcnt was not for the Word of Allah, 
but rather for the ink, parchment and labour; taking the acute shortagc 
of volunteers into account, such scholars as Ibn 'Abbas (d. 68 A.H.), Sa'ld 
b. jubair (d. 95 A.h.) and Ibn al-Hanafiyya (d. 100 A.H.) did not find the 
sale or purchasc of Mushafs distasteliil.*' The same debate extended to the 
revision of Mushafs and the amendmenl of auy scribing mislakes iherein 
which, initiaily the volunteer's task, soon passed into the hands of the paid 
proofreader. Sa'ld b. Jubair, once oftcring a Mushaf to Musa al-Asadi, as- 
serted that hc had gone through, corrected the errors and that it was for 
sale." 11 l'bllowing their earlier argumcnt Ibrahim an-Nakha'i and others 
disapproved of paying for revision, though Ibrahim in parlicular altered 
his slance afterwards. 89 

'Amr b. Murra (d. 1 18 A.H.) contends that it was the slaves who first 
iniliatcd the business of selling Mushals."" Ibn 'Abbas' siave, for cxamplc, 
would charge 1 00 dirhams lbr copying the Our'an. 1 " The trade in Mushafs 
appears to have originaled diiring Mu'awiya's reign, according to Abu 
Mijlaz, which placcs this jusi ahead of ihc niiddlc ol' the first eentury A.ll."- 
The growth of commcrce soon brought about shops specialising in Mushafs; 

"» ibid, p. 169. 

85 Ibn AbF Dawud, al-Mata/iif, pp. !60, 166, 169, 175; see also Ibn Abi Shaiba, 
Musannaf. iv:292. 
m Ibn Abi DSwPd, at-Mas3h>f, P- '66. 

117 Ibn Abi Sliaibu, Aliiyutmif, iv:293; sec also Ibn Abi Diiwficl, iil-.Mnyiliif, p. 175. 
»" Ibn Abi Davtiid, al-Masaliif, pp. 175-76. 
»•' tWrf.pp. 157, 167, 169. 
'"' ibid.p. 171. 

91 Al-Bukhari, MmtqAfal at-'ibSd, p. 32. 

92 Ibn Abi Dawad, al-MafSkif, p. 175. 

'uthman's MUSHAF 107 

if they happened to pass by such a shop Ibn 'Umar (</. 73 A.H.) and Salim 
b- ' Abdullah (d. 1 06 a.H.) would pronounce it "a dreadful trade", 93 while Abu 
al-' Aliya (d. 90 A.H.) wished punishment for those who put the Qur'an up 
fbr sale. 94 

A moie akruisiic irend was the public library. Mujahid (20-103 A.H.) 
reports that Ibn Abi Laila {d. 83 a.h.) founded a library containing oniy 
the Holy Qur'an, where pebple would gather for recitation. 95 'Abdul-Hakam 
b. 'Amr al-Jumahf established a different sort of library by the middle of 
the first century a.h., housing Kurrasat (^jU/: booklets) on assorted subjects 
in addition to various games, and hei-e people freely used the facilities for 
reading and amusement.* 5 Sources mention another library belonging to 
Khalid b. Yazld b. Mu'awiya;'' 7 there may have been others whose details 
are now lost to us. 98 

8. Conclusion 

The eflicacy of 'Uthman's endcavours is elear in at least two ways. First, no 
Muslim province remained but tliat it absorbed this Mushaf into its blood- 
stream; and second, that a span of fourteen centuries has not been able to 
corrupt or dent the skeleta! text of hts Mushaf. Truly a manifestation of the 
Holy Qur'an's miraculous nature; anyother explanation fails. I-ater caliphs, 
perhaps seeking a foothold in the chronicles of posterity; commissioned and 
dispatched further official copics, but nothing was ever sen t forth which 
contradicte<l 'Uthman's universal Standard. 

Over time surface alterations began to matcrialise iri the MushaTs cir- 
culating within the community, which bore no eflcct on the pronunciation 
of words or the meaning of verses. 'Uthman himself may have been familiar 
with aspects of this phenomenon; his decision to minimisc written vowels, 
keep away from verse separators, and avoid the tise of dots was most likely 
meant as a deterrent to those who would memorise the Qiiran by them- 
selves without proper guidanec. But with the passing of time (and no long 
streteh at that) the inclusion of dots and verse separators become the norm, 
so let tts cxamine the full implications of this over the ncxt few chapters. 

Vi ibid, pp. 159, 165; see also Ibn Abf Sliaiba. Mmannaf, iv:292. 
94 Ibn Abi Dawfid, al-Masahif, p. !69. 

5 Ibn Sa'd. Tabagal, K" 75; see also Ibn Abi Daivud, al:\tasahif, p. 151. 
90 Al-Asfahani, al-Agtiant, iv:253. 

Contrary to Kvenkow s supposition ["Kitabkhana", Encydvpaedia of Islam, first 
edition, h-: 1045], this library was probably founded afier those of Ibn Abi Laila and 
Abdul-Hakam b. 'Amr al-Jumalu, and is therefore not the earliest of its kind. 
8 M. M. al-'Azaml, Studies in Early Haditk Lheratttre, pp. 16-17. . . ^ ■ 




Here we briefly explore soine of the visual aids and aesthetic improvements 
that scribes incorporated into Mushafs, before embarking on the more 
complex topics of Arabic palaeography and the dotting system in the next 

1 . Sura Separalors 

Whilc initial copies of 'Uthman's Mushaf lacked sura separators ( J-»i> 
j j— J'), the beginrung of each sura was readily discernible from the phrase: 
r j-/ j-»-/ «Ui f— j , usually prcceded by a small clcarance. This wc can see 
in the example beloiv. 

Figitre 8.1: A Mushaf from tkefirst cenlury A.H. in Hejazi scripl. 
Source: Masahif San'a", plate 4. 

The numcrous unofficial copies penned eoncurrently with 'Uthman's 
•Mushaf provide us with our first glimpse of sGra separators, through the 
introduction of a simple ornament, Katurally the phrase ^^y-^ -JJ* -. — s 
's still there.^ Malik bin Abi 'Amir's Mushaf is one such example.' 

' For lurther details, see pp- i 00-2. 



■ - v *• L . u U.A „l.„ JJ. ULU s 


•? i'- 

/ >r>» 


Figitre 8.2: A Mushaf in HejazJ serifit from thtfirsl cenlury .UI. 
Sonrce: Masdhif San'a', filale 1 1 . 

v This was soon followed by the introduction of the sura title, possibly in 
a difterent coiour, while still retaining the ornament and (&-J*y*-£'&f~+. 

Figurc <?..'»*: .1 Mushaf /mm /hc /n/e /in/ or enrlv seaiuti tenlun i.//. 

An ornamen/ fiilhncetl bj llie lilit (in golti ink) M/Mirah's the turus. 

Couriesy: National Archive Museum of Yernen. 



2. Ayah Separators 

'Uthman's Mushaf vas also devoid of ayah separators, as we can see from 
the nvo figures below; both are aitributed to him, meaning that they are 
either originals or duphcatc copies thereof. 

uL L 

F^ihv 5.4; The Mushaf of Tashkenl. Source: al-Munaggid, Etudes,/». J/. 

> iJ L J» < M, l | ll I L 

i%w<r 5.5; jTAc Mushaf of Samaraand. Source: Masahif San'a', p. 35. 

Before long ayah separators triekled i n. No fixed sryle was observed, 
each seribe freely devising his own. The three examples I present are all 
taken from Mushafs in the Hejazi seript (first century A.H.). In the first 

sample, the ayah separator consists of two columns of three dots each; in 
the second, a row of four dots: in tlie third, a triangular arrangement. 



Figure 8.6: Firsl cenlury AJI. Musliaf ivith ayali scpamUm in tlieform 

of dotkd columns. Source: Masahif San' a', plate 3 (page 61). 

Figure 8. 7: A Mushaf from liiefirst cenlury A.H. willi ayah separators in the 

form offour horizontal dols. Source: Masahif San'a", plate 'J (page 60). 


-J r' 

tV/iL) i^-df P 

Figure 8.8: Anollier Mushaf from liiefirst cenlury aji. with ayah separators in 
a triangularform. Courksy of the National Archive Museum of l'emen. 



Additional refmements uere subsequeiuly devised, in thc form of special 
markers for every fifth and/or tenth ayali. 

Ftgitre 8.9: A Mushaf from the second cenlury .UI. willi a 

special marker 011 every tenth ayah (second tinefmm Ihe top). 

Courlesy of .Vationa/ Archive Museum o/ lemen. 

*}+jt*l L y 3 *-* ' L ^ b-*& * L 

J * «* -4» \r **■&+ tr- *- * *■* 

93iAX ** j— * <* A »*l a 1 L 

•^U >*A^_^r 1* L )~* fe- .4 U * 

-U > lM .,ffjM 4* 4« L «• 1— L-* 

K U *±d llj 4- *~^k*^ *** ** 

^U«)^ — » C > C*i jLjj-'. 

/•ig«rc 8.10: This Mushaf from fJie third cenlury A. H. has a marker for every fifth 

ayak (third linefrom the top, in the shape of a gotden leardrop) and anotherfor every 

tenth ayah (third linefrom bottom). AU other ayahs are separalel by a triangular 

arrangement. By permission of the British Library, manuscripl Or. 1397, f 7 5k 





A Mushaf penned by the master calligrapher Ibn al-Bawwab, dated 39 1 
A.H./ 1000 G.E., and prescrved at Chestcr Beatty. In this Mushaf there are 
spccial markcrs for cvcry lifth and tcrith ayah, and wiihin the laltcr are 
inscribed the words ^*, Z>)~*, OyX... i,e. ten, twenty, thirty elc. 

3. Conctuston 

In the prcvious chaptcr we noted al-Hajjaj's curious scarch ibr the wherc- 

abouts of every third, fourth, and sevenih portion of the Qitr'an. Shortly 
aftcrwards, perhaps at the eiose of the lirsl century A. H., the Mushaf w;is 
divided into seven parts known as manazii (Jj^). Titis was intendrd to 
assist lhose who sought to finish the entire Mushaf in a week's limo. The 
ihird century A.H. witnessed addilional symbols, dividing the Book into 
thirty parts (*j*r : juz') for the reader who desired a (uli month. Thesc div- 
isions were the praetica! outgrowth of al-Hajjaj's curiosity and have served, 
ever since, as a usefui tool for ali who wish to pace themselves. 

Intricate borders, the use of gold ink, and many other devebpments were 
adopted according to each seribe's tastes and abilities. Bui thesc were purely 
acslhctic, unlike the sura and ayah separators which were genuine rcading 
aids as well, and so we will not diseuss ihem here. There were olher reading 
aids besides, in the form of dots and diacrkical marks, and thesc had an 
immensely profound impaet on the learning of the Qur'an Ibr non-naiivc 
speakers throughout the Muslim realms. Thesc aids, and the Orientalist 
controversies surrounding them, are the tbcus of our next chapter. 

Chapter Nine 


|The inquisitive reader might wonder why Arabic palaeography and ortho- 
Igraphy, seemingly unretated to the topic at hand, have found their way 
linto this book. and the answer will make more sense if I flrst explain these 
Iterms. Palaeography generally refers to the study of ancient documents, 
[thoitgh here I use it in a more confined sense: the study of a language's script 
l(such as the shape of letters or the use of dots). This diflers froni orthography, 
vhich fbcuses oti spellingconventions. Most of the cireulating theories about 
Arabic palaeography, about its origins and development, are biblically 
Irooted; were they of esoteric interest only I would not have given them 
Ispace in this work. But these theories have a direct bearing on the Qur'an's 
lintegrity, since they allege that Arabic possessed no known alphabet diiring 
Ithe Prophct's lifetime (Mingana), that divergences in the readings of certain 
Iverses are due to fauits in early Arabic palaeography (Goldzihcr), and that 
lany eopy of the Oj-ir'an written in Kufic script belongs to the second and 
Ithird eentury A.H., never to the first (Gruendlcr). Countering these arguments 
lis a necessiiy if we are to prove that the Holy Book remains untaimed. 

1. The Historical Background of Arabk Chamcters 

The ancestry of Arabic charaeters remains speculaiive, and it is hardly 

surprising that Orientalists have chimed in with their ovvn tiicories in this 

egard. Sadly, most of these cannot hold up to even cursive serutiny Beatrice 

irucnoUer, autlior of a study on the Arabic script's development, states that 

lof all the seripts emanating from the Phoenician alphabet, Arabic seems 

|the most remote. The drastic alterations in spatial arrangement suggest that 

either the Nabataean or Syriac seripts served as an intermediary. Theodor 

|Noldeke, in 1865, ga% - e credit to the former for the development of the 

rabic Kufic script; numerous others, among them MA Levy, M. de Vogue, 

|. Karabacek and J. Euting, jumped on the bandwagon soon thereafter. 

5ut half a cenuuy later this consensus vvas shattered when J. Starcky theo- 

rised that Arabic derived from the Svriac cursive. 1 On the other hand we 

1 Beatrice Gruendler, The Development of Ihe Arabk Script, Scholars Press, Atlanta, 
Georgia, 1993, p. 1, Starcky's arguments have been refuted in detail [ibid, p. 2]. 


have Y. Khalil an-Namfs theory that the "Hijaz was the home of the 

birlh and evolution of the Norch Arabic script to the exclusion of all other 
localitics, including Hirah."'-' As to why Gruendler completcly ncglects this 
third premise, I will leave to the reader. 

Among the missionary Orientalists there are those who believe that 
Arab Muslims did not have their own writing system during the Prophet's 
lifetime. In the words of Professor Mingana, 

Our ignorancc of the Arabic language in the early period of its evolution 
is such that vve can not even know with certainty whether it had any 
[alphabet] of its own in Mecca and Madina. !f a kind of writing cxisted 
in these two localities, it must have bcen somcthing very similar to 
Estrangelo [ie. Syriac] or the Hebrcw charaeters.-' 

Nabia Abbott has fnrther partially championed this hypothesis. 

A study of Christian Arabic manuseripts shows the inleresting faet that 
some of the earliest of these come the nearest to showing an estrangelo 
influence, though indirectly through tlic Ncstorian, in the general app- 
earance of the script, which is firm and inelined to squareness. Others. . . 
show the effect of Jacobite serto. Furtliermorc, a comparison of scvcral 
of these Chi islian manuseripts with laigety coi«en>|Hiraiy Kulit Kurans 
reveals a decided similarity of seripts. ' 

Ali is nol as it seems, howevcr. According to Abbott, "The earliest dated 
Christian Arabic manuseript [is from] 876," r> meaning 264 A.H. 'Awwad 
has mentioned an even earher dated manuscripl, written in 253 A.H./867 
C.E." The earliest dated Christian Arabic manuseripts iherefore slein from 
the second half of the third century A.H. There are literally hundreds if not 
thousands of Qur'anic manuseripts beionging to this period; comparing 
these hundreds with one or two estrangelo (Syriac) examplcs and claiming 
that the latter influenced the Ibrmcr is very poor scicncc indeed, if it can 
be called a seience at all. On top of this I wotild add thai the Syriac script 
c 250 A.H. (angular and forward-slanted) docs not correspond at all with 
the general Arabic of that period, which is inelined to curves and unslanted 

2 Nabia Abbott, The Rise of the Mirth Arabic Script and its tai/anic Davlopmenl, with a 
Juli Descriplion of the h'ur'an Manuseripts in the Oriental Institute, The University of Chicago 

Press, Chicago, 1938, p. 6, footnote 36. 

3 Mingana, "Transmission of the Kuran", The. Mosleni llbrtd, vol. 7 (1917), p. 412. 

4 Nabia Abbott, The Rise of DieNorth Arabic Script, p. 20. 
■'' ibid, p» 21), Ibotnole 20. 

* K. 'Avcwad,Agdamd-M<Mlu^ai-'Afab!}yaJtAiaktabalal-'Alaiii, Baghdad, 1982, p. 65. 



strokes. One wonders why Abbott shied avvay from using dated Arabic 
documents and Ojar'anic manuscripts from the first century A.H., which 
rest on library shelves in relative abundance. 

Leaving the Syriac aside, the other cuiture to be credited with providing 
the impetus for Arabic pataeography is the Nabataean. According to Dr. 
Jum'a, extensive research by authoritative scholars has proved that the 
Arabs derived their writing from them; in this he quotes a multitude of 
scholars such as Abbott and Wilfinson. 7 Analysing a set of the eariiest 
Muslim inscriptions, coins and manuscripts, against those from the pre- 
Islamic Arabic and then comparing the entire group with the Nabataean, 
Abbott concluded that the Arabic script in use at the dawn of Islam was 
a natural development of pre-Islamic Arabic which in turn was a direct 
development of the Aramaic Nabataean script of the first centuries of our 


Figure 9. 1: Probabk roules of diffusion of the early north Arabic script, according 
to Abbott. Source: Abbott, The Rise of the North Arabic Script, p. 3. 

7 Ibrahim Jum'a, Dirasatunfi Tataivwur al-hilabat at- hujlyya, 1969, p. 17 
B N. Abbott, The Rise of theA'orttt Arabic Script, p. 16. 


Digesting these 'facts' is too much for the objective scholar's stomach. 
Whether consciously or othervvise, these theories appear to bc bascd on a 
highly subjective, antagonistic view of Arabic achievements. Muslim scholars 
who liold fasl to these ideas arc simply acquicscing to Western scholarsliip 
vvithout any independent analysis of their own. To clariiy my claims, Figure 
9. 1 shovvs a partial map as supplied by Abbott for relevani inseriptions. 

Here are the sites of the fivc inseriptions in Plate I of Abbott's vvork, 
which form the basis for this Nabatacan conclusioii: 

1 . "Nabataean inseription on tombstone of Fihr. Umm al-Jimal, f, 
A.|).250" ,J 

2. "Arabic inseription of Imru' al-Kais, Namarah, a.d. 328" 

3. "Arabic inseription from Zabad, a.d. 512" 

4. "Arabic inseription at Harran, A.n. 568" 

5. "Arabic inseription at Umm al-Jimal, (ith century" 

Here we have onty one so-called Nabataean inseription (from Umm al- 
Jimal) while four arc in Arabic, indudiiig another one at that same site. Of 
the Arabic inseriptions one lies in Zabad, very elose to Aleppo in norihei n 
Syria; another is in Namarah, southeast of Damascus; the third and fourth 
are from norlh of Ma'an, once the Nabataean capital. So how did the Anilnc 
manage to streteh itsclf from norlhcrn Syria clowu into Arabia, earving 
straighl througli tlic Nabataean homcland itsclf? I doubl t here was any 
language known to its speakers as 'Nabataean', as I will show ncxl. 

2. Sludies in Eariy Arabic Documents and Inseriptions 

i. The Blurred Line Between Nabataean and Arabic Inseriptions 

Among scholars there b a general disagreement concerning whal constitutes 
a Nabataean or Arabic inseription. Some scholars cited a frw of the later 
inseriptions as Nabataean only to see their colleagucs revise tlicm subse- 
quently as Arabic, and the following examples will illustraic this. 

1 . A bilingual Nabatacan-Grcck inseription on the tombstone of Fihr, 
Umm aljimal, dated to c. 250 c.E. Canlineau, Abbott and GruetKller 
all subseribe to Littmann's view, who treats it as Nabataean. 10 

54 liUcrestingly, in pagi- 4 Abbott uames the same inseription: "a Greek-Aramaic 
inseription at Umm al-Jimal". 

'<• J. Cantineau, Le Mabatem, Otto Zclltr, Osnabrlick, 1978 , ti:25 (reprint of 1930 
«lition); N. Abbott, The Rise of ffieNortli Arabk Sciipt, I'late (1 - I); see also B. Gniendler, 
The Development of the Arabk Script, p. 1 0. 



©/\ N OYHNW* 

Figure 9.2: .4 bilingual Jv'abataean-Greek inscriplion on the tombstone of 
Fihr, Umm al-Jimal, c. 250 C.E. Source: Canlineau, Le Nabateen, ii:25. 

2. The Raqush tombstone in Mada'in Saleh, dated to the year 1 62 after 
Bosra (corresponding to 267 Q.E.).-Both Cantineau atid Gruendler 
catalogue it as a 'Nabataean text'," though the latter mentions, "The 
text is noteworthy for its many Arabisms. O'Conner describes it as 
an eccentric mbcture of Nabatean and Arabic . . . Blau labels it a 
border dialect and Diem assigns it to a Nabatean-HijazI sub- 
group." 12 In their 1989 paper, Healey and Smith hailed it as the 
earliest dated Arabic dociiment.' 


T V*l •*.►_ jt }rf *a^» Jj? i 

T ^ ^AJiy p^ j*_ _ j. A ^ «**0*J « 


/%««' 9.,?; 7fo recently re-interpreted Racjiish tombstone. the oldest dated 
Arabic inscriplion, corresponding to c. 267 C.E., a/ong with the Healey and 
Smith reading (linefor /ine). Kote that there is a short Thamudic summary 
ivritten verlically to the rigkl, Source: al-Atial, vol. xii, Plate 40 and p. 105 

(Arabic section). 

One of their salient points is that this inscriplion contains skeletal 
dots on the letters dhal, ra' and shtn. 

Cantineau, LeA'abateen, ii:38-39; Gruendler, The Dmbpment of tlte Arabic Script, p. 10. 

- Gruendler, The Devehpmenl of the Arabic Script, p. 10. 

SeeJ.E Healey and GR. Smith, 'Jaussen-Savignac 1 7 - The Earliest Dated Arabic 

Document {a.D. 276)", al-A0 (The Journal of Saudi Arabian Archaeology), vol. xii, 1410 

■™9), p. 77. The atuhors mention that this inseription has generally beeti ctassified as 

a " Aramaic text ry^ p 77 j_ 




3. The inscription of Imru' al-Kais at Namarah ( 1 OOkm southwcst of 
Damascus), dated to 223 years after Bosra (c. 328 C.E.). While 
Grucndler regards it as Nabataean, 14 others including Cantineau 
and Abbott treat it as Arabic. 13 

Figure 9. 4: Arabk inscription of Imru' al-Kais, J^ainarah. corresponding to 
c. 328 C.E. Souice: Cantineau, Le Nabaleen, ii:49. 

From these cxatnples wc can asccrtain that tlic dividing linc bctwccn 

Arabic and so-called Nabataean inscriptions is very hazy indeed; with the 
Raqush now reinterpreted as an Arabic text, it has bccome the oldcst 
known datcd Arabic inscription. The great rescinblancc among these 
(hrcc inscriptions is due to thcir scripl. Thcy are all Nabataean. 

U. What Language Did the Nabataeans Spcak? 

Growing up in Makkah from his earliest chiidhood Isma'll, eidest son of 
Ibrahim, was raised among the Jurhum tribe and married within them 
twice. Tliis tribe spoke Arabic, 16 and so undoubtediy must have Isma'll. 
The Jurhum Arabic probabiy lacked the sophistication and polish of the 
Quraishl Arabic, preceding it as it did by almost two thousand years; Ibn 
Ushta records a statement from Ibn 'Abbas, that the first person to initiate 
set rules for the Arabic grammar and alphabet was none other than Isma'ii. 17 
Eventually Allah commissioned Isma'll as a messenger and prophet, ia to 

14 Gruendler, The Developmeni of the Arabic Script, pp. 1 1-12. The author claims that it 
is "the earliest extant text in the Arabic kngua^, though it still uses Nabatean characters." 
[ibid, p. 1 i]- 

15 Cantineau, Le Nabaleen, ii: 49-50 (under the heading 'Textes Arabcs Archaiques*); 
Abbott, The Rise of UieNortti Arabic Scripl, Platc (I - 2). Quoting Healey and Smith, "... 
from the timc of its discovery almost, [the Namarah text] has beeti hcld up as the 
earliest dated Arabic inscription." ("Jaussen-Savignac 1 7 - The Earliest Dated Arabic 
Document (a.D. 276)", at-Ajlat, xii:82]. 

16 See al-Bukhari, Safti/i, al-Anbiyii', hadrth no. 3364; see also Ibn Qutaiba, al-Ma'arif 
.p. 34. 

• 7 As-SuyOtl, at-ltoan, iv: 145, quoting Ibn Ushta. 
18 Qur'an 2:135; 3:84. 



■call his people for the worship of the one true God Allah, to establish 

irayers and pay aims to the poor. 19 Since Allah sends every messenger in 

Kjje language of his own people, 20 Isma'Il must have preached in Arabic. 

iGenesis credits Isma'Il with twelve sons,- 1 among them Nebajoth/Nabat; 

Iborn and nurtured in these Arabian surroundings they must have adopted 

I Arabic as their mother tongue. These sons may have preserved their father's 

Ijnessage by using the prevailing Arabic script; certainly they vvould not 

■have resorted to whatever script waa then current in Pafestine (Ibrahim 's 

homeland), since two generations had alreadv lived in Arabia. VVhen Nabat 

Lubsequently migrated northwards he must have iaken the Arabic language and 

alphabet with him. It was his descendants who established the Nabataean 

|Kingdom (600 B.C.E - 105 C.E.) 22 

Commenting on the sounds of certain Arabic characters which are not 

epresented in Aramaic, Gruendler declares, "As the vvriters of Nabataean 

|texts spoke Arabic, and given the close relation between the two languages, 

|[these writers] could find Nabataean cognates to guide them in the ortho- 

jraphy of Arabic words with such unusual sounds." 23 Or to put it more 

lirectly, that the Nabataean language and script were in fact a fbrm of 


If the Nabataeans spoke Arabic, who named their language Nabataean? 
|[s there any proof that they called their language this? Or does this stem 
icrhaps from the same tendency that labels Muslims as 'Mohammedans', 
([siam as 'Mohammedanism', and the Qur'an as the 'Turkish Bible'? If this 
>caltcd Nabataean script had been properly named as 'Arabic' or 'Naba- 
|taean Arabic' (just as wc sometimes speak of 'Egyptian Arabic' or 'American 
inglish'), then the whole research may have taken a different turn, and 
lopcfully a more correct one for that. The Arabic language and script, 
In their primitive forms, gave birth to the Nabataean and most probably 
jredatcd the Svriac. 

I!l Qiiran 19:54-55. 
2(1 Qiiran 14:40. 

21 hmgjamts Union, Genesb 25:12-18. 

22 There are different opinions regarding the origins of the Nabataeans. In Jawad 
lAli's view, the Nabataeans are Arabs who are even eloser to Quraish and the HejazI 
|rii>es than are the tribes of Southern Arabia. Both had comnion deittes atid their script 

Dre a dose resemblance to that which was used by the early seribes for recording the 

Jur'an. (The Syrians and Nabataeans werc difTerent cultures, the latter residing not 

Syria but in present-day Jordan.) According to historians Nebajoth is Nebat or 

«Jabatian, the eldest son of Ismail. These are the faets which lead Jawad 'AJI to his 

lonclusion. [Jawad 'Alt, al-MufassalJ? Tankli al-'Amb Qabl at-lslam, iii:14.] 

23 Gruendler, The Dtvehpment of /he Arabic Script, p. 1 25. Italics added. 

122 tm i: h isro «v ( ) i " th i; (.y.; k ' an k: t icxr 

iii. The Early Arabk Language Possessed a Distiitct Alphabet 

Turning our attcntion to Dr. Mingana's hypothesis that carly Arabic lacked 
an alphabet, I wiil present a few dated and highly developcd inscriptions 
whic.h olcarly shovv olhcrvvise. 'I'licrc are many Arabic inscriptions liom (lu- 
6th ccniury C.E. whicli vcry ncarly approach ihc Arabic palaeography uscd 
in the lirsl cenlury of A.H./sevcnth ccntury Cl-;.; my examplcs will progress 
from these into the Islamic era. 

1 . A pre-Islamic trilingual inseription in Arabic, Greek and Syriac at 
Zabad, northern Syria, dated c. 512 C.E. 24 

u0 )k o niJ£.$v>*>.<.!>-<',— i«V~ 

Figure 9.5: A pre-Islamic trilingual (only the Arabic is shoivn) inseription 
al /(abad, c. 512 C.E. Source: af-Munaggid, Ktudcs, p, 21. 

2. Another pre-Islamic Arabic inseription al Jabal Asls, 105km south- 
east of Damascus. The date corresponds to c. 528 C.E. 2 * 



Figure 9.6: Another pre-Islamic Arabic inseription al- Jabal Asls, c. 528 
C.E. Source: Hamidullah, Six Originaux, p. 60. 

3. Harran, a pre-Islamic Arabic inseription corresponding to c. 568 C.E. ; 

_^J\ A — lo, yA£ y\^ Y»' L ! 

Figure 9.7: A pre-Islamic Arabic inseription at Harran, c. 568 C.E. Source: 
al-A4unaggid, Etudes, p. 21. 

24 S. al-Munaggid, Eludes De Pakograplde Arabe, p. 21 ; see also Grucndlcr, The Devekpment 
of tlie Arabk Script, pp, 13-14. 

25 M. Hamidullah, Six Originaux des Ultra Diplomaiitjuts du Prophete de L'Islam, Premiere 
edilion, Paris 1986/1406 A.H., p. 60. 

26 S. al-Munaggid, Etudes De Pakographk Arabe, p. 21. 

THE HISTOKY OF ARABlt: l'.\l..\l : .0(iRAI'l!Y 


4. Islaniic iuscriptioti on Jabal Sala', Madinah. Accorcling to Hamid- 
ullah i( was probably engraved diiring the Bnttle of the Ditch, c. 5 
A.H./626 c.E. 27 

'^/■Ar-( '■: 


/■(g«H* V. «V: Early hlamk inmifition <m 'jabal Sala', <: .J .(.//. Source: 
Hamidullah. Six Origi i ia 1 1 x . />. 11 1. 

5. The Prophet's IciUT to al-M undi lir bin Sawii,-'" Ciovcrnor of al~ 
Ahsa'. c. K-9 .UI. Scc Figuir 9.9. 

6. Tlic Proplict's k'ttcr lo Hiraql (Ha arlius),- 1 " ibc Byzantinc Empcror. 

Thcsc sLitlk'U'iitly rofutc Rev. Mingaiui's prrmis<- ivgatding the early 

M. Hamidullali. Six Origiirim.\ dei Itlttes ltij)luiiuilu\ues itu l'rn/i/uii- r/r I 'Idam, pp. 62-5. 

m Topkapi Sarayi. iccm m>. 21/397. Scc alsu Hamidullali. St\ (Mginau* dei Leltres 
Oiplamali(/iu> du hvpfietr de l.'Llam, p. 1 1 i. I am-pi lho auihrwidiy of this Ictter and 
the one (o Hiraql. along wiih others auihrnticatcd Ia- Hamidiiliah. as a liistorian. On 
the other liand Gruendler sialcs, "Thcif aiuheiiiiciiy i< mmc than doubtful, as they 
do not even display the same srript." [The Develupineiil «/' Amble Saifil. p. 5, footnote 
16]. This i< uticr nonscnse. The Prophct had morc ihan >ixty scribes [sce this woric 
p. 68], and to expcci thcir handwritings lo match onc anoihci is absurd. 

29 M. Hainidutlah. ilf.v Oiiginau.\ des Leltres Dipli»iHiti(/ur.\ du l'mphek de L'/slam, p. 149. 
Observe the clear dillcrcnce in handwriung betuecn ihis Irttcr and the prcvious one, 
due io the use of a diH'eieiu seribe. 



Figure 9.9: Prophe/'s leller /o al-Mundhir (nole the seal o/ the hophet al 
lower Uji). Reproduccd icith kind permission of Msiyon ncusiuaga^ine oj' 


•■ -AV T 



flgw? P./0: Prophei Muhami>i<i<l's leller lo Hiraql, the Emperur (j' 
By?antine. Source: Ham'utiillnli. Six OriginaiiN. /a /7.9. 


ia The Emergence of Various Scripts and 

the Issue of Dating Kufic Mushafs 

Stretching from Azerbaijan and Armenia in the north to Yemen in the south, 
to Libya and Egypt in the \vest and Iran in the east, the territories of the 
Isiamic staic rcceived Communications from the central govemment in 
Madinah in Arabic. 30 A rapid evolution of the Arabic seript followed, such 
that \ve find angular and cursive {i.e. non-reetilinear) charaeters developing 
aiongside the Hejazi seript at a very eariy stage. For instance, the tombstone 
of al-Hajr! (Figure 9.1 1), dated 31 A.H., is classified "by sdme as Kufur 11 
(angular), and the papyrus dated 22 A.H. (preserved at the Austrian National 
Library, Figure 10.3) is in cursive. The subject of Arabic seripts is rather 
large and beyond the scope of this work, but as certain Orientalists have 
created confusion regarding Kufic Qur'ans, I vs-ill present examples of this 
particular seript. 

1 . Tombstone from Aswan (southern Egypt) vvith an inseription dated 3 1 
A.H. :t - Prof. Ahmad considers it the eariiest dated Kufic inseription.'' 1 

M See al-A'zami, "Nash'at al-Kitaba al-Fic|hiyya", Dirasai, l'niversiiy of Riyad, 1 398 
(1978). «/2:1:5-24. 

■" Though I use the term 'Kufic' herc and elsewhcre, as etnployed in academic circles, 
I pcrsonally have reservations about this label. However. 1 do agree with the followtug. 
The eariiest seholar to wriw in the field of Mushaf calligraphy, au-Nadim, lists more 
tlian a dozen styles of seript (laun al-klmt) of u-hich Kolic is but otie. l'erhaps it U diilicult 
now lo define the distinguishing eharaeteristies of each of these calligraphic styles, but 
it appears that modern aeademia, by lumping all these styles crrotieously under the 
'Kufic' umbrellu, has achievcd simplilication but lost all accuracy [See A. al-Munif. 
Dirasa Fammu li Mushaf Mubakkir, Riyad, 1418 (1998), pp. 4 1-42 j. In the opinion of 
Vusuf Dhunmln, the term 'KCSfic' is cuireiitly used to denote (iiicorrectlyj all angular 
seripts that evolved from the base seript al-Jalil [ibid, p. 42J. See also N'. Abbott, The 
Rise of the .\'orlh Arab'u Seript, p. 1 6. 

■'- ibid, p. 69; also S. al-Munaggid, Etudes Dt Cateographie Arabe, p. 40. 

3; * A. ' Abdur-Razz9q Ahmad, "Nash'at al-Khat al-'Arabi wa Tatawuurahu 'Ala al* 
Masahif", Masahif San'a', p. 32 (Arabic seetion). The seript ccrtainly looks angular but 
1 would rather not call it Kufic. The cities of Kufa and Basia were founded in Iraq 
tjuite eariy on in the history of Islam; Kufa itself vvas founded in 1 7 A.H./638 C.E. by 
Sa'd b. Abl \Vaqq3s. It seems unlikely that a city, which vvas buih from serateh. could 
have established a popular seript named after k (i.e. Kufic), exported it as far as southern 
Egypt and attracted followers such as the inseriber of this tombstone. within the span 
of only 1 4 years! 



**■/#::; .-:*;:■ ■■■; 

jRga/i? 9.//: Tombstone in soulkern Egypt daled 31 A.H. 
Source: Hamidullah, Six Originaux, />. 69. 

2. An inscription in Kufic script near Ta'if (east of Makkah), containing 
prayer. This one is daled 40 A.H. : " 

Figure 9.12: Attractive Kufic inscription daled 40 AJI., ivil/i a sketch of the 

original. Source: Al-Atlal, uol. i, Plate 49. Reproduced witli tlieir kiiid 


The inscription may be translated, "Mercy and blessings of Allah 
upon 'Abdur-Rahman bin Khalid bin ai-'As, written in the year 
forty [A.H.]" 
3. Dam of Mu'awiya near Ta'if, with an inscription in unadorned 
Kufic, 35 dated 58 A.H. W 

•' ' A.H. .Sliarafaddin, "Sonic Islamic instripiioiis cliscovcivil on tlie Darb Zubayda", 
al-Atlal, vol. i, 1 397 ( 1 977), pp. 69-70. 

35 Grucndler, The Developmmt of Ihe Arabk Script, pp. 15-16. 
•"' Sc<* Figure 10.5 ;vnd (lu* accompaiucd tosi. 



4. A dated (80 a. H.) Qiir anic versc i n Kdfic script discovered near 
Makkah.- ,: 


'.aji?» v' ■aJfcf.'.oD.! 

■* -■:,•'■' 



fi»«)r 9. 13: A (hir'anic vcise in kufic scri/it, dated 80 A.H. 
Smirce: ar-Rashid. Kiliibai Islam iyya, f>. 160. 

5. An'rijitioii ncar Mukkah bascd on Qui'ariic verses* 1 in Kufic 
script. daird i'A A.H. 1 " 


■- '* :>£'•'? ■ 

■ : -■-"~:-*--i.C«'.-;i> ; " . 



.. ? = : : "--''.i''-" *;*££. 

/•yaiv 9,/-/: /I beautifid Kufic inscription dated 84 A.H. 
Source: ar-Rashid, Kita I ku Islam iyya, />. 2 f i. 

37 S. ai- R cuhicl. hitahfit hlnmirvd min Mtiikat «t-Muhtrimtm. Ri\ad. 1416 (1995), pp. 

This iiiscripiiiiii is tim a Qur'r<ni<" versi - bin i-i /ttriivd Wimt i\v<> dilVereiit Qur'5nic 
verses (2:21 and t: I . h could b<- tim- )■■ a slip in ilic uritcr's mcinnry. Quoting Brucc 
*«l2gpr, '" I lu - mininry ciin play siranm* trieks ulicn om- qiiui<s rvcn liie most fatniSsar 
passages. ... a ivinarkable insiawe <il" ihis in n<> les* a person ilianjcicmy Taylor, wlio 
iwotes xhv tixi 'Kxivpt a nian be buru agahi lio taniioi see tlu - kini>dom of God' ninc 
litries, vet only mite in thc saine fbrtn, ancl nevtr urut' cormnly." | The Text of iheMiv 
•titamml; li< T>imvnh\itm. Corruptiim. and Rnloration. Urtl i-nlarged rdhion, Oxford Univ. 
Press, 1992. pp. 88-89. ii ionmu- n<>. 3 J. 

S. ar-Rashid. hitSbat hlamirm min Stakkat al-Miikarfanm, pp. 26-29. 


The Iast fivc examples (Figurcs 9.1 1-9.14) along witli many others* 
confirm ihat even in the first century A.H. the Kufic seript had achieved 
considerable prominence throughout. the Muslim lands (Egypt, Hejaz, 
Syria, Iraq elc). These inseriptions argue against Gruendler, who altcges 
that all Kufic Mushafs belong to the second and third century A.H. 41 
Well-known by the middle of the first century, this seript came to be used 
widely throughout the Islamic world, cspecially in coinage, 1 - and there is 
no plausible reason why it had to watt a century or more before being 
adopted for Mushafs. In faet the Mushaf of Samarqand, attributed to 
Caliph "Uthman (first half of the first century A.H.), is penned in Kufic 
seript. * 

3. Conclusion 

Arabia's roeks are adorned with numerous examples of Arabic seript be- 
ginning from the middle of the 3rd century c.E. Primitive in some respects, 
early Arabic nevertheless provided the impetus for the Nabataeans' own 
form of Arabic while its historical roots, anehored in the epoch of Ibrahim 
and Ismail, predated the Aramaic. Like any other language, Arabic pal- 
aeography and orthography vvere in a constant state of llux. The expanston 
of Muslim territories led to the parallel evolution of different Arabic scrtpls, 
e.g. Hcjazi, Kufic and cursivc, caci» with its own cliaractcristics. None ol 
the seripts dominated the olhcrs, and none was confined to a specific locale. 
With multiple examples of Kufic seript taken from first century inseriptions, 
we have negated the theory that Kufic Mushafs can only be dated to the 
second or third century A.H. 

w There are many other dated examples of Kufic inscriplions whicli 1 did not re* 
produce due to space considerations. Some ol' the more notablc oncs are: (1) Hafnai 
al-Ubayyid inseription ucar Karbala, Ira<j, dated 64 A.H. (al-Munaggid, Elttdts /V 
Pakographi? Arabe, pp. 104-5J; (2) livscripiiunal banci «f the Dtnne of the Kuck iulaid 
in mosaic,Jcrusalcm, dated 72 A.H. [Gruendler, The Developmmt of Ihe Arabic Seript, pp. 
17-18, 155-56]; (3) Road milestone built diiring ihe rcigii or caliph 'Abdul Malik 
(65-86 A.H.) [al-Munaggid, Eiudes, p. 108]. 

*' Gruendler, The Deudopmenl of Ihe Arabic Seript, pp. 134-35. 

¥i Caliph 'Abdul Malik unilied the coinage throughout the Islamic world in the year 
77 A.H./697 C.B. (Stephen Album, A Checklut of Islamic Coins, 2nd edition, 1998, p. 5]. 
These purcly epigraphic. coins in gold, silver and copper bore mottos from the Qur'an, 
the year in which they were struck, and in the case of silver and copper coins the name 
of the mini all in Kulic seript. This praetice commucd even afier the fail of the Ummayad 
caliphatc in 132 A.H. ["Islamic Coins - The Turath Collcction Part l", Spink, lxmdon, 
25 May 1999, Sale No. I33|. 


Chapter Ten 


The lapse of years and wizening of new nations can cause dramatic changes 
in spelling conventions, retaining ccrtain peculiarities fromlhe past while 
others evolve or become obsolete. Back in 1965 while I was working to- 
wards my Ph. D at Cambridge, I came across a young British student who 
was studying Arabic to be an Orientalist by profession. He complained about 
the absurdity of Arabic orthography and hovv difficult it was to master, 
insisting that the Arabs ought to switch to Latin script - as was the case 
in modern day Turkey - which made more 'sense'. I countered him with 
the absurdity of the a sound mfather,fat,fak, shape, and u 'm pul, bui; not to 
mention rigkt and itriie, and the past and present tenses of read. A plethora 
of examp!es werc burning holes in my pockets from my sheer frustrations 
while learning English as a third language, He argued that these irregularities 
wcre owing to individual words and their historical developmcnt, bot he 
seemed to overlook that if English had the unque$tionahte right to these 
peculiarities then it was only fair that the same should be affbrded to Arabic. 
Bclow I have provided the verbatim title of a randomly chosen (and typi- 
cally verbose) English treatise from the 1 7th century c.K., lo illustrate the 
orthographic changes that have takcn place in undcr four centurics. 

The Boy of Bilson: or, A True Discovery of tlie late notorious Impos- 
tures of efrtaiite Romish Pricsts in thcir pretcnded Exorcisme, or cxpulsion 
of the Dive/lom of a young boy, named William Pcrry, somwof Thomas 
Peny of Bilson, in the courury of Stattbrd, Yeoman. Upoii which oecasion, 
hereunto is pcrmittcd A briefe Thcological Discoursc, by way of Caution, 
(br the more mur diseerning of svich Romish spirits; and mdging of 
their false pretences, both in this and the like Practices. 1 

The spelling may seem laughable by our current eriteria, but it is in 
complete accordance with the established standards of 1 7th century England. 

1 Peter Mihvard, Rfligiou.i Ctmtroimies of thejacofcan Age (A Sttrcev of Prinled Sourca), 
The Scolar Press, I^ondon, 1978, p. 197. This is the actual title of a book pnblished in 
1 622 t:.E. I have italicised the words thai have differetu speilings than our current 

Standard. Notice that 'judging' is wrhten with an 'i' instead of 'j'. 

130 .thi; hisjory or ini; q.ur'.\nk; text 

In some languages certain characters enjoy dual functions; the lettcrs 
i and a were uscd as bot h vowels and consonanls in Latin, 3 with ihc con- 
sonantal i being pronounced as 'y' in yts. In somc tcxts tlie consonantal i 
is written asj. Agahi in Latin, the letter b was pronounced 'p' if followed 
by s (e.g. abstuli = apstuli), otherwise it was akin to the English 'b'. 1 
Interestingiy, the letter/ came into existence only recently (c 16th or f 7th 
centuty), long after the invention of the printing press.* In German \ve 
have vowels which are modified by the umlaut sign, e.g. a, 6, u, which 
were originally spelled ae, oe, ue respectively. 3 The letter b is pronounced 
cither as 'b' in ball (w\\en initial) or as 'p' in fc?/>(whcn being last in a word 
or syllable), while rfis pronounced either as 'd' or 't'. The letter^ cati elicit 
six diffcrcnl sonnds according I o the local dialccl. 

Tlie same pliciioiiH-ttoii cxists in Arabic. Somc U'ibcs would pronouiKO 
the word j>- (halia) as ^* ('atid), and J»^ (sirat) as -S» 1 ^- (sirat), ete, and this 
was the root cause of many of the known variants in recitation. Similarly 
the letters i, j, i^ have the dual funetion of consonant and vowel, as in 
Latin. The question of how early Arab writers and copyists uscd these 
three letters requires special altention. Their meihods, lhough puzzling 
to us now, were straighlforward cnotigli to t hem. 

Krom this brief introduetion, let us delvc into ihc sy.sicm of Arabic 
ortliograpliy diiring the early ccnUirics of Islam. 

1 . Writing Slyles During ihe Time of tlie Prophet 

In Madinah the Prophet had an enornious number of seribes originating 
from various tribes and localities, accusiomed to diflerent dialects and spclling 
conventions. For example, Yahya says that hc witncsscd a letter dietated by 
the Prophet to Khalid b. Sa'id b. al-'As which contained a lew pcculiaritics: 
015" (MnaYwas written d£ (kaivand), and j*- (Italia) was spelled l*». 1 ' Anothcr 
document, handed by the Prophet to Razin bin Anas as-Sulami, also spelled 
JIS" as OjS 1 . 7 The use of doublej (-r*), which has long since been contraeted 
into a singlc y, is evident in Jj& 8 and pj- (of course without skeletal dots) 

2 KL. Moreland and R. M. Fleischer, latin: An Intensii* Course, p. I. 
:i ibid, p. 2. 

* "How Wasjcsus Spelled?", Biblkal Ardwology Review, May/june 2000, vol. 26, 
no. 3, p. 66. 

■' Harper'i Modern German Grammar, London, 1 960, pp. ix-xvi. 

6 For details see Ibn Abl Dawud, al-Maiahif, p. 104. 

7 ibid, p. 105. 

8 Qur'an 51:47. 


in the Prophet's letters. 9 A document from the third century A.H. draws a 
couple of letters in multipte ways. 10 There is no shortage of e\idence 
regarding the variance in writing sryles during the early days of Islam. 

2. Studies on the Orthography of 'Uthman's Mushaf 

Numcrous books allude to the spelling peculiarities found in 'Uthman's 
Mushaf, vviih some of the more detailed ones analysing all instances of 
spelling anomalies. Among the ciiapters in al-Muqni\ for example, one 
bears the heading, "Examinat*ion of Mushaf spellings vvhere [vowels are] 
dropped or listed. [Subheading:] Examinatior> of words vvhere alif(\) is 
dropped for abbreviation." Ad-Dani quoting Nafi' bin Abl Nu'aim (c. 70- 
167 A.H.), the original author, then produces a list of the verses vvhere alf 
is pronounced but not vvTitten: 

Sura: verse 

Tke spelling used in 
'Uthman's Mushaf 

Actual prommcialion 


JjfiJi^t U ) 

C'^iUw L.j 


^•r Uj *j >\) 

^r u - u ' , j ' 3 b 




Tliese three instances I chose arbitrarily, otherwise the examples in his 
book occupy the length of twcnty pages. Additionally, alif 'm 'Uthman's 
Mushaf is universally removed from oj*-Ji and -zjy^-. ■ (a total of 190 oo 
currences), except in verse 41:12 vvhere it is spelled oi^_Ji." Randomly 
perusing the present-day Mushaf printed by the King Fahd Complex in 
Madinah, I have verified this one instance of anomalous spelling, and so far 
have fonnd nothing in my cursory searches to contradict Nafi' s tabulated 
rcsults. IJ The two remaining vowels along with the hamza («) also display 
a dynamic tendeney for ehange, one which is not limited to 'Uthman's 
Mushaf. Of the Compamons vvho penned their ovvn private copies many 
incorporated additional peculiarities based, perhaps, on regional diflerences 
in spelling. Here are two examples: 

9 M. Hamiclullah, Stx Originaux Des Ltttm Du Prophete De L'lslam, pp. 127-133. 

'" See the diseussion on Glianb al-Ha<filh manuseript in this work, pp. 1 46-7 . 

1 ' Ad-Dani, al-Miujni', pp. 20, 27. 

'- The copy I used, which is wel! known throughoui the world, is without doubt 
one of the most accurate printings of the Mushaf; for this the Center deseives our 
due congratulations and gratitude. 


THR HISTORY O r' 'l' H L ^Uk'AMi: Tt,X l 

(a) 'Abdul-Fattah ash-Shalabl discovered an old Qur'anic manuscript 
in which the scribe used two difTerent spellings of J* (i.e. J& and "5U-) 
on thc samc page. 1 ' 1 

(b) I n thc Raza Library Collcction, Rampur, Inti ia, tiienc is a Mushaf 
written in Kufic script aitributcd to 'Ali bin AbT Talib. Thc word 
J* h again spcllcd as "^, and j*- is spcllcd as li»-. I havc proviclcd 
a sample pagc bclow. H 

^' k ?&L L 

L&* J *^ 


J ir^ 

t A^%^j 

BMU. - 

Figure 10.!: The Kufic Mushaf altributed to 'Ali bin AbT Talib, where ^ 

is spelkd ^*- (sevenlh limfrom tiie top) and <_}*■ is spelkd y& (fourlh tine 

Jrom tlie bottom). Courlesj Rampur Raza Library, India. 

Malik bin Dinar reports that 'Ikrima would. recite verse 1 7 : 1 07 as Jas'al 
(jLj), though it is written fsl (J~»). Malik reconciled this by saying that it 

1 3 Ash-Shalabi, Rasm al-Mushaf pp. 72-73. In a similar case, the Mushaf of ' Alqama 
{d. after 60 A.H./679 C.E.), brought to light by Ibrahim an-Nakha'i {d. 96 A.H.), spelkd 
the leuer alif both in the traditiorial form and in the lorm of the Icttcr^w' - mcaiiing 

that certain words with alif had two interchangeable forms (e.g. t>- and j>- ). I also 
came across another Mushaf folio from the firsi ccntury A.H. where in ihe same page, 
the same word has been written in two dtHercnt ways. 

'■* For another sample page of the same Mushaf, see Dr. W.H. Siddiqui and A.S. 
Islahi, Hiridi- Urdu Catakgue- of the ndiibilum held on tlie occasion of the celebmtion of the 50th 
Annivenary of India's Indeptndence and 200ytan of Rampur Ra~a Libmn; 2000, Plate No. 1. 


was the same as reading <?5/(Jtf) uhen the word is spelled tf/(J*), 13 which 
is a common abbreviation in the HejazI Mushaf." 5 Given that reading and 
recitation werc based on an oral learning tradition, such shorthand did not 
threaten to corrupt the holy text. If a teacher recited ijltf (read as qalu, the 

alif M the end not being pronounced due a certain grammatical rule) and 
the student scribed it as fi (follovving his own Standard) bu t read it back 
correcdy as 'jM, then the anomalous vowel spelling bore no ill consequences. 
Jbn Abi Dawud narrates the following incident: 

>Ji Uli , ~-Jj>- ,«*.'' wj^v-ai 1 i *\i) J'. *U l -'t* *' j '■ J^ t^-j'JJ 1 ^i ji ,«&*»• r J'* ' 
?4JI X-J ^Ui J j j* : JU* tJJi *iL Ju-jj j, £l*J-l 

. -* ">bo t .jL».i.,7 : Jli 
J*»r_j ifcjjt _jl_) f*V _i. ( i wSli «iyti» -dJl J_* LjWi i_)W 0» .-JiS" «yS*» 

l7 .^!> y j oy jji, jis - «iy\s*» 

"Yazicl al-Farsl said: ''Ubaidullah bin Ziyad addcd two thousand extra 
ieitcrs {-* j?-) hi the Mushaf. Wlien al-Hajjaj bin Yusuf came to Basra 
and was informed of this, he iiirjuired who had carried out this alter- 
ation for 'Ubaidullah; the rcply was Yazld a)-Farsi. Al-Hajjaj tlicrefore 
summoncd mc; I wcnt to sce htm and had no doubt that he imcndcd 
to kill mc. He asked why 'Ubaidullah had requcstcd the addition of 
these two thousand Icttcrs. I rcplicd, 'May Allah keep you on the right 
path; he was raiscd up in the lowly community of Basra \i.e. far from 
the learned areas, in a region lacking litersry lasse and sophistication]'. 
This spared me, for al-Hajjaj said that 1 spoke the truth and let me go. 
What 'Ubaidullah wanted was simply to standardisc the spelling within 
his Mushaf, re-writiug « Ji» as «i^Ju», and «yf» as «ijjtf"». 

As the matter did not involve corrupting the text btu rather reinstating 
some vowels which had been dropped for abbreviation, al-Farsl left al-Hajjaj's 

15 Sce Ibn Abi Dawud, al-AIasakif, p. 105 (the-printed tcxt has been correeted). 
Teachcrs and students were bound lo teach, Icarn awl read orally according co the 
u«Jrfi- (which emanated direcily from the Prophet) and witliin the boundaries of the 
UthmSnt Mushaf 's text. Malik bin Dinar's reading was both true to the 
eonsonantat text and to the hadiths on which he based his recitation. 

' See for example F. Deroche and S.N. Noseda, Sottrces de la transmlssion manuserite 
«« lexte Coranique, Les manuserits de styte higazi, Volume 2, t'ime 1. Le mamtserit Or. 2165 (f. I 
« 61) de la British Library, Lesa, 2001, p. 54a. 

17 Ibn Abi Dawud, al-Masahif, p. 117. The printed text has been correeted. 



company unscathed. Referring to the concordance of the Qur'an wc note 
thal iyu occurs 33 1 times, while V^ occurs 267 times: a combincd total 
of 598 words. Recall that 'Ubaidullah added two extra alifs in each of these, 
amouniing to approximately 1,200 extra leiters. The ligine of two (housand 
(as mentioned in the narration} was probabty a rough guess. 

Ibn Abl Dawfid's narrativc bears a defecdve and wcak isnad, 19 giving 
scholarsjcnough cause to reject it. But even if it were genuine, what 'Ubaid- 
uUah was guilty of tampering with his own copy so as to bring it in accordance 
with the prevalent spelling conventions, nothing more, For another example 
we turn to the Mushaf copied by Ibn al-Bawwab in 391 A.H./I000 C.E., 
vvhich I have compared against the Mushaf printed in Madinah in 1407 

Musim/ of Ibn 

Mushaf of A ladlna}'' 









The very beginning of Sura al-Baqara alone provides these four instances. 
The custom for most printed Mushals now is to adhere faithfully to the 
'Uthmani spelling system; the word UJJU (matik) for instance is written ^M' 
(maiifc) following the 'Uthmani orthography, though a tiny alif h placed after 
the nian to clarify the pronunciation for the contemporary reader. Similarly 
a few verses still speil JU as Ji,^ indicaiing that this abbreviation was valid 
in 'Uthman's time and that he allowed the indusion of both. 

Modern publishers, by basing their copies on the oflicial 'Uthmani ortho- 
graphy, have provided us with a rich reference point for the spelling con- 
ventions of Islam's first century. And it is indeed the best option for every 
publisher, given the benefits of mass printing and the (roughly) standardised 
nature of modern education. The reluetance to deviate from "Uthman's 
orthography is nothing new however. Imam Malik (d. 1 79 A.H.) was solicited 
over twelve centuries ago for his legal opinion (<jy*) on whether onc should 
copy Uie Mushaf afresh b)' utilising the latest spelling conventions; he resisted 
the idea, approving it only for school children. Elsewhere ad-Dani (d. 444 

lft Tlic chain of wilnesses who were involved in iransniiiting.thc cvent; see Chaptcr 
12 for a detailed diseussion of the isnad sysiein in general. 
''' 'ITicsc lvords, in the printed Mushaf, all contai» a tiny alif to aid tlic pionnnriation. 
M Scc for examp!e Qur'an 23: 1 12, 23: 1 14 and 43:24. 


A.H.) maintaincd that all scholars from Malik's time to his unanimously 
shared this same conviction. 21 

>i; .j*^.\ j. Ji J isj w^V'j y/ > J^ 1 ^ o/j -*}/-■> j* iUC Jii 

.V rjtf 

^ y jS «J <J»ilJl ^ Jf*jJu&> ij—^l ^ Jy JJ1 jJl -ifyl.} y^l y^*. : j^* y} Jl* 

> s 1 -! 1 iL'-^J '*♦*■*.* ••• «*i~ii V j'» ... j «jJjl y*ij 'Sr*.} « , ^^ 1 » ••• 

Imam Malik was approached about ccrtain vowels in the Mushaf which 
are silent: he dismissed the idea of eliminating them. Abu 'Amr (ad-Dan!) 
comments, "This refers to the extraneous and silent waw and alif, such as 
ivaiv in ... \?.}\ alif 'm ... *a*jitV y', and also the 70' in ... «i-. j*ui." This 
indicates that Imam Malik was against any institutionalised updating; while 
scribes may have chosen to incorporate different conventions in their own 
copies. in his mind such conventions weie never to receive precedence or 
sanction over 'Uthman's orthography. 

3. The Nuqat (Dotling) Sclieme in Early Mushafs 

From orthography vve now switch our Ibcus to palacography. 3 'Just as in the 
prcvious chapter wc placed Arabic palacography i» a historical pcrspcctivc, . 
so now \ve place it in the context of the Qiir'an and examine its development. 
Much of this diseussion will revolve around nuqa( (iaJi : dots), which in the 
early days of Islam embodicd a dua! meaning: 
1 . Skeletal dots: 

These are dots placed eithcr over or under a letter to difleremiate 
it from others sharing the same skeleton, such as h (-), kh (£) and 

- ' Ad-DiSnl, al-.\luqni' y p. 1 9. Sonic scholars huve suggestcd thai the Mushaf be writteii 
in acc ordance with their period "s prevailing conventions. One such seholar is 'Izz bin 
Abdus-Sal5m (az-Zarakhshi, Burhan, i:379]. Others writingon this topic include: Ibn 
Khaldfln, who favours change [Shalabi, Rasm al-Mushaf, p. i 19]; Hifni Naslf, who is 
against any change \ibid, p. 1 18]; The Azhar"s_/flftra board, which decided to srick to 
the early orthographic system [ibid, p. 1 1 8]; The Saudi committee of niajor 'uletna, who 
also decided in 1979 to maintain the old system; and A similar consensus was rcached 
by the World Muslim League {al-FinaisSn (ed-!, al-Batfi', Introduction. p. 41J. 

•■* Ad-DanT. al-\luqni\ p. 36. 

23 As a reminder: orthography refers to spclling conventions, while palcography (in 
this contextj deals with a language's seript, with the shape of its letters and the placement 
of dots etc. 



j (g)- Knovvn as nugat al-i'jam (f^*^ 1 i^a), ihis systcm was familiar Co 
Arabs prior to Isiam or, at the latest, in Islam's youth - prcccding 
'Uthman's Mushaf as we will soon dcmonsirale. 

2. Diacritical marks: 

Known in Arabic as tashkU ( jXiJ: u. damma,fatka, kasra) or nugat 
al-i'rab (w<i^i J»i); 24 these can take the form of dots or more con- 
ventionai markings, and wcre invented by Abu al-Aswad ad-Du'all 
(c. 10 b.h. - 69 A.H./61 1 - 688 c.e.).° 

We will cover both of these schemes at length. 

i. Early Arabic Writings and the Skeletal Dots 

The rasm al-khat {lit: the drawing of the script) of the Qur'5n in the 'Uthmani 
Mushaf does not contain dots to differentiate such characters as b (v), t 
(o), and so on, and neither does it possess diacritical marks such z&fatha, 
damma, and kasra. There is a good deal of evidence to show that the concept 
of skeletal dots was not new to the Arabs, bcing familiar to them even prior 
to Islam. These dota were nevertheless absent from the earliest Mushafs. 
Whatcver the philosophy behind this may havc bccn* 1 will introducc somc 
examplcs to provc that carly Arabic palacography did indced haw dots 
to accompany the skeleton of the characters. 

1 . The Raqush tombstone, the oldest dated pre-lslamic Arabic inserip- 
tion, c. 267 c.E., contains dots on the letters dhal, ra 1 and shin. 27 

2. An inseription, most probably pre-lslamic, at Sakaka (northern 
Arabia), written in a curious script: 

Figure 10.2: A curioiis iiiscriplionjbund in Sakaka. Sotme: Winnet and 

Reed, Ancient Records from North Arabia, Figure 8. 
Reprinkd with the publisher's kind permission. 

M These are meant to represent short vowel sounds. Yet another name is al-haraka 
(tf^i), and in Urdu they are known as zair, zabar, paish ... elc. 

25 Ad-Dani, al-Muhkam, p. 6. A renowned author, ad-Du'ali wrote his creaiise on 
gramniar (and invented tashkil) probably around 20 A.H./640 C.E. 

26 See p. 95 for a diseussion on (he motive. Wheiher it caused divergences in the 
readings of die Qur'3n is subject of Chapter 1 1 . 

27 For more detail, see p. 119. 


The inscription (supposedly a combination of Nabataean and Arabic 
characters)-'* contains dots associated with the following Arabic letters: 
«(0). b (-•) and / (*). 
3. A bilingual document on papyrus, dated 22 a.h.,-'-' preserved at 
Osterreichische Nationalbibliothek in Vienna: 

Figure 10.3: A dated bilingual document from Egypt. Source: Auslrian 
.Vational Ubrary, Papyrus Collection, R Vindob. G 39726. 
Reprinted with tkeir kind ptrmissim. 

Figure 10.4: The final line reads: Moitlh of Jamad al-'Vlafrom 
Iheyear 22 (A.H.) and icritten (h) Ibn Hudaida. 

This document haib from the reign o!" Caliph 'Umar bin al-Khattab. 
The following Arabic characters have dots: n (0), k/i (*), dh {}), sh 

* n E V W'innett and W". L. Reed, Anrient RecordsfmmAorth Arabia, L'niversity of Toronto 
Press, 1970. p. II. 

29 M. Hamidullah. Sh Origmaux des Letlres Diplomali<iu<s du Prophele de L'lsiam, pp. 44- 
45: See also S. al-.\hmaggid. Etudes De Paleographie Arabe, pp. 102-3. 

' Hamidullah in Si\ Originaux des Letlres Diplomatujuts du Prophele de L'lsiam. p. 47, 
wports that Grohinaiiii \From the World of Arabic Papyri. Caiio. 1952, pp. 62. 1 13-4) 
commitied numerous nimakes in reading the five lines of the Arabic text. In line 4, 
«c read >l* «_»» ivhncas it is J^i» w -^ ; line 3. he read J /i'' ^j-j», ^ jt [ and *^ 
J& whereas it is J/l 1 j-u*, Uj-t» j<i and j& *^ respectively 




4. Ain inscription acar Makkah, dated +6 A.H., contains a dot on the 
letter * (w.). 31 

5. Mu'awiya dam near Madinah has an inscription that includes dois 
on the letter / (o). 32 

6. Anothcr dam of Mu'awiya. This onc ncar Ta'if, wilh an inscription 

dated 58 A.H 

31 A. Munlf, Dirasa Fanmya li Mushaf Mubakkir, p. 1 39 quo(ing Grohmann, "Arabic 
Inscriptions", Louvain 1962, totne I, pl. xxii, no. 2, p. 202. 

- vi ibid, p. 140 rcfcrriisg to a book by Dr. S. ar-Rashid ou Islamic City. 

33 S. al-Munaggid, Eludes De Pakographie Arabe, pp. 101-103 quoting G.C. Miles, 
"Early Islam i j Inscripiions Near Taif, in the Hidjaz", JA'SS", vol. vii (1948), pp.-236- 

Figute 10.5: Inscription dated 58 .UI. on the dam of Mu'auiyc n<ar Ta'if. 

The following characters have dots:_>w {^), b {-s), n (0), tli (>i>),Mt 

In view of the above we can conclude that, up until 58 a.h., thc foUovving 
letters had been assigned dots to diflerentiate them from others bearing 


the same skeletal shape: n (0), kh (£), dh (i), sh {J'), z (j ),_>'« (^s), b (v), th 
(i- ),/(-») and / (o). A total of ten characters. Concentrating on only the 
first three inscriptions. which predate 'Uthman's Mushaf, we fmd that dots 
were standardised into the same paneni that is in usage today. 

Muhammad bin 'Ubaid bin Aus al-Gassanl, Mu'awiya's secretary, states 
that Mu'&wiya asked him to carry out some tarqish {J~jy) on a particular 
document. Inquiring what was meant by larqish, he was told, "To give 
everv character its due dots." Mu'awiya added that he had done the same 
iiiliig once for a documetit he had written on behaif of the Prophet. 34 Al- 
Gassan! is not well known in traditionist circles, and this weakens his nar- 
rative, 3i but we cannoc discount this incident in light of the irrefu&ble facts 
proving the eariy use of dots (however sparingly). 

». The Iuvention of the Diacritical Markings 

As mentioned earlicr the diacritical marks, known in Arabic as tashkil 
were invented by Abu al-Aswad ad-Du'all (d. 69 A.H./688 c:.E.). Ibn Abl 
Mulaika rcports that diiring 'Umar's rcign, a Bedouin arrived asking for 
an instructor to help him learn the Our'an. Someone voiunteered, but 
began making such a string of mistakes while acting as tutor that 'Umar 
had to stop him, correct him, then order that only those with adequate 
ktiowledge of Arabic should teach the Qur'an. With sudi an incident no 
doubt hauming his mind. hc cventually rcquested Abu al-Asvvad ad- 
Du'alt to compose a treatise on Arabic grammar."' 

Ad-Du'al! took his assignment to heart, composing the treatise and 
inventing Ibur diacritical marks that could be posted on the concluding 
letter of each word. These took the form of coloured dots (to differentiate 
them from skeletal dots, which were black); initially they consisted of a 
single colour (red in the example below), with each dot's position signifying 
its specific mark. A single dot ptaced after, on, or below the letter constituted 
a damma,falha or kasra. respectively. Similarly two dots placed after, on, or 

: ' 4 Al-Khatib al-Baghdadl. al-Jami', i:269. 

■*•' Keler to the chapter 011 Muslim methodology for grealer details. 

' ,(1 Ad-Dani. al-Muhkam. pp. 4-3, Ibotnote 2, quoting Ibn al-Anbarl, al-fdah, pp. I5a- 
I6a. An-Nadiin gives a detailed deseription of the mamiseript or ad-Du'ali's treatise 
oti grammar. He discovered it in Ibn Abf Ba'ra's library, consisting of four folios and 
copied by the fantous Grammarian Yahya bin Ya'tnar {d. 90 A.H./708 (J.K.). It contained 
the sigiiature of another Grammarian, 'Allan an-Nahawi, and beneath it the signature 
of an-Nadr bin ShumaiL [an-Nadim, al-Fihrist, p. 46.] These signaturts established the 
legitimacy of Abu ai-Aswad ad-Du'ali's original authorship of the treatise. 



below the letter indicatcd damma tanween (double damma), fatka tanween or 
kasra tanween, respectiveh/" (this synopsis docs linlc justice to his actual 
conventions, which were quite elaborate). During Mu'awiya's rcign (d. 60 
■ A.H./679 C.E.) he accepted a commission to apply (his dotting system to 
a copy of the Mushaf, a task probably completed c. 50 A.H./670 c.E. 


Z t P 

Ftgure 10.6: Exainple of a AlushaJ written in the htjfic ioif/1, (miring ad-l)u'ali's 
dotting scheme. Courtesy of the National Anitive Museum of Yemen. 

This scheme was transmitted from ad-Du'all to iater generations through 
' the cllbrts of Yahya bin Ya'mar (d. 90 A.H./708 C.E.), Nasr bin 'Asim al- 
Laithl (d. 100 A.H./7 18 C.E.), and Maimun al-Aqran, arriving at Khalil bin 
Ahmad al-Fraheedi (d. 170 A.H./786 C.E.) who finally altered this pattern 
by replacing the coloured dots with shapes that resembled certain char- 
aeters. 38 Centuries lapsed, however, befbre al-Frahecdi's scheme finally 
superseded the earlier system. 

Every centre appears to have praetised a slightly diflerenl convention 
at first. Ibn Ushta reports that the Mushaf of Isma'Il al-Qust, the Imam 
of Makkah ( 1 00- 1 70 A.H./7 1 8-786 C.E.), bore a dotting system dissimilar 
to the one used by the Iraqis, M while ad-Dani notes that the seholars of 

37 Ad-Dani, al-Muhkam, pp. 6-7. 

38 ibid, p. 7. 

39 ibid, p. 9. 



San'a' foiiowed vet another framework. 1 " Likewise, tlie pattern used by 
the Madinites differed from the Basarites; by the close of the first century 
however, the Basarite convemions became ubtquicous to the extent that 
even the MadTnite scholars adopted them. +l Later developments vvitnessed 
the imroduction of multi-coluuied dots, each diacritical mark being assigned 
a different colour. 

Figttre 10. 7: Esample of a Mushaf in the hufic script. The diacritical dots are 

inulti-coloiired (red. green. yellmv. and a palt shade of hlue). .\ote also the ayah 

sejHimtars and the kutil ayah marka, <is ditctmed in Chapter 8. Coitrtesy of the 

.\ational Archire .Museum oj lemen 

iii. Paralle) Usage of Two DifTcrcnt Diacritical Marking Schetnes 

Khalll bin Ahmad al-Friiheedi s diacritical schcme won rapid imroduction 
into non-Qui''anic tcxts. so for the sake of dift'crcmiation the script and dia- 
critical marks reserved for masterly copies of the Quran u ere deliberately 
kopi dillcrent from those that werecommon toother books, though slowly 
some calligraphers began to use the new diacritical systein in the Qur'an, 
hovvcver. 4 - I am fortunate to have a few colour pictures of the Qur'anic 

10 ihid. p. 2:55. 

11 ibid, p. 7. 

'-' Sonic of ilwse caltigiaphns are: Ibu Muql.i (d. 327 a.H.1. Ibu al-Bawwab {d. 
cirea 413 .\.H.) ... ete In faet Ibu al-Bawuab ewn shiecl away Ironi 'Uthman's orth- 
ography. The currem trend is to fail back to the early urthography. e.g. the Mushaf 
printed by the King Fahd complex in Madinah [See p. 131 J. . , „ 



fragments from the San'a' Colleclion, through wliich the developmciu of 
such schemes can be demonstrated. 

Figures 10.6 and 10.7 (above) probably datc from the sccond century 
A. H., whilc the ncxl is an cxamp[e of the Qui "anic seript ironi the iliird 
century A.H. W 


• «B> A»_-jt L. __ 

Figure i 0.8: Example of Qui i anic seript from the third century .\.lt., Yole agahi 
the mul'i-coloured dols. Courtesy of tlie .\alional Arehive Museum of Yemeii 

The next figure is an examplc of non-Qur'anic seript f rum the same 
period; the difference is rcadily visiblc in the seript and in the schemes 

employed for skeletal dots and diacritical marks. For further examples, 
see Figures 10.11 and 10.12. 

Figure 10.9: Examj>te of a non-Qur'amc seript, end of the second century A J/. 

Mite the diacritical marks, in line with al-Fraheedi's selteme. Source: A. Skakir 

(ed.J, ar-Risalah of ash-Shafi'l, Cairo, 1940, Plate 6. 

+S Based on the deseription in ihe catalogue: MasaluJ San'S', Dar al-Athar al-Islaniiyyah 
(Kuwait National Museum), 19 March - 19 May 1985, Piate no. 53. In this regard I 
have some reservations; for example, I believe that Figure i 0.6 belongs to the late firsi 



4. Sources of the Skeletal and Diacritkal Dotting Systems 

Father Yusuf Sa'id, mentioned by al-Munaggid as an authority on the 
history of alphabets, skeletal dotting systems and diacritical marks, coneends 
that the Syriacs may have been the first to develop the dotting system. 44 
The reference here is to skeletal dots, as scen in such characters as: £ > C > 
- . His claim does not extend to the usage of diacritical markings. But Dr. 
'Izzat Hasan ied.), in his introduction to al-MuhkamJl Migtil MasShif, takes 
the extra step and attributes the diacritical system to Syriac influence: as 
the Syriacs were in the forefront of grammatical and dotting schemes, so 
the Arabs borrowed freely from them. 45 For this argument he the 
Italian Orientalis! Guidi, Archbishop Yusuf Dawud, Isra'il Wilftnson, and 
'Al! 'Abdul-Wahid al-Wafi - this last simply repeating previous com- 
mentators. Dr. Ibrahim Jum'a has expressed the identical view of Arabs 
borrowing the diacritical system from the Syriac language, where he cites 
Wilfinson. 41 ' This is the conclusion of many others, including Rev. Mingana 
who (never one for sugar-coating his words) remarks, 

The first discovcrer of the Arabic vowels is unknown to history. The 
opinions of Arab aiuhors, on this point, are too worthless to l>e quotcd. 4 ' 

Asserting that Syriac universities, schools, and monasteries established . 
a system betwccn 450-700 C.F.., he says, "[the] foundation of the Arabic 
vowels is based on the vowels of the Aramaeans. The names given to these 
vowels is an irrefutable p'roof of the veracity of this assertion: such like Phath 
and Phataha.""* According to him, Arabs did not elaborate this system titi 
the latter half of the 8th century C.E. 4 '* through the influence of the Baghdad! 
sehool. which was under the direetion of -Ncstorian seholars and where the 
celebrated Hitnain had written his treatise on Syriac grammar. 5 " 

In the Syriac alphabet only two characters possess skeletal dots: dolath 
(dai) and rish ;'ra). By comparison the Arabic alphabet contains a total of 
fifteen dotted characters: ■->, o, ^, c> C> *> m J' i J*, J»> £.» -*> j. ^ ar> d 
">. Imagining that the Arabs borrowed their multitudinous dots from the 

44 S. al-Munaggid, Etttdes de Pateographie Arabe. p. 1 28. Al-M unaggid has shown some 
reservation nbout attributing the skeletal dots to Syriac influence. 

45 'lzzat Hasan (cd.), al-Muhkamft .\aqtit Masahif, pp. 28-29. 

46 Ibrahim Jum'a, DirasalKnJtTaiaifwur al-h\!Sba! at-KSJ'tyya, 1969, pp. 17,27,372. 

47 A. Mingana and A. S. Lewis (cds,), Lemes from Three Ancienl Qurans Possibly Pre- 
'Olhmanic: with a list of their Variants, Cambridge Univ. Press, 1914, p. xxxi. 

48 ibid, p. xxx. 

49 This translates to 150 a. H. and onwards, because 700-799 c. E. = 81-184 a.h. 
30 Mingana and Lewis (eds.), Leavesjrom Three Ancienl Qurdns, p. xxxi. 


Syriac becomes a difficult proposition; moreover we have clear pre-Islamic 
evidence of the usage of skeletal dots, hailing from dic early 7th century 
and perhaps from as long ago as the 3rd century c. E/ 1 ' 

Now let us proceed to diacriticai markings in Syriac, of which two sets 
exist. According to Yusuf Dawud Iqlaimis, the Bishop of Damascus, 

It is conflrmcd without doubt that in the life of Jacob of Rana, who 

died in the beginning of the 8th century C.E. there did not appear any 
diacriticai marking method in Syriac, ncither the Grcek vowcls, nor 
the dotting syslem. 52 

According to Davidson though,' 3 Jacob of Raha {d. 708 C.E.) invented 
the first set of markings in the 7th century, while Theophilus invented the 
second set (Greek vowels) in the 8th. Keeping in mind that the end of the 
seventh century C.E. corresponds to 81 A.H., and the end of the eighth to 
184 A.H., the question becomes: who borrowed from whom? In light of 
what Davidson mentions the verdtct could fail either way, so let us seek an 
answer by examining the seripts. The figure below illustrates some Syriac 
vowels. 5 * 


a t«ad ah 

«O or 


e n V 


t ., * 


o „ «A 



U „ M 

Figure 10.10: Examples of Syriac vowels. 

The signs used by Jacob of Raha bear some resemblance to the Qur'anic 
diacriticai system. Now recali (hai the inventor of the Arabic system, Abu 
al-Aswad ad-Du'ali, died in 69 (688 C.K.), and tlialhe clotted (Ik: entire 
Mushaf diiring Mu'awiya's reign c. 50 A.H./670 c.E. Suddcnly (hc issue 
of who borrowed from whom becomes crystal clear. For six hundred years 
the Syriacs wrote their Bibles without any diacriticai markings, though they 
boasted a university in Nisibis and several colleges and monasierics, all in 
operation since 450 C.E. Yet their diacriticai marks were not conceived uatil 

51 Keler haek (o ilic Raqush iuseription, Chapicr 9. 

52 Ydsuf Dawud [qlaimis Bishop of Damascus, at-Lam'a ash-Shaliiyya Jt A'afiw al- 
Lttgha as-Siryamyya, 2nd edition, Mosul, 1896, p. 169. 

5:1 B. Davidson, Syriac Reading Lessons, London, 1851, 
54 B. Davidson, Syriac Reading Lessons, London, 1 85 1 . 


the late 7th/early 8th century, while ad-Du'alfs dotted Mushaf was finished 
in the third quarter of the ?th century C.E. Logic clearly dictates that Jacob 
copied the system from the Muslims. This is if we accept Davidson's claim; 
if we accept the verdict of the Bishop of Damascus however, then there is 
no need for even this argument. 

As regards Rev. Mingana's allegation that the Arabs failed to elaborate 
this system till the latter haif of the 8th century, consider the following: 

1 . There is a report that Ibn Slrin {d. 110 A.H./728 C.E.) possessed a 
Mushaf originally dotted by Yahya bin Ya'mar {d. 90 A.H./708 C.E.). 55 

2. Khalid al-Hadhdha' used to foliow the recitations of ibn SirTn from 
a dotted Mushaf. 56 

Both incidents are much earlier than the proposed borrowing scheme. 

Syriac grammar gained its identity chrough the effbrts of Hunain bin 
Ishacj (194-260 A.H./8 10-873 C.E.); 37 contrary to Mingana's beliefs, Hunain's 
treatise on Syriac had no influence on Arabic grammar whatsoever because 
Sibawaih (rf. 180 A.H./796 C.E.), 58 the greatest. Arabic giammarian, died 
before Hunain was even bom. Hunain hhnself was in fact a product of 
the Islamtc civilisation. He learncd Arabic in Basra, from a pupil of one 
of the students of the famous Muslim lexicographer Khalll bin Ahmad 
al-Fraheedi (1 00- 1 70 A.H./7 1 8-786 c.E.)- 30 

5. Orthographk and Palaeogmpliic 'Irregularilies' in Eatfy fion-Qui , ank Scripl 

Earlier we discussed how two dtflerent diacritical schcmes were employed 
in parallel. one for the Qiir'an and anothcr for all otlicr worjss. We also 
noted the difference in the Qur'2nic and non-Qur'anic seripts, and the 
seholars' legal opinion against modernising the spelling conventions found 
in 'Uthman's Mushaf. But what about the other books, how elid they evolve 
in response toclianges in the palaeography and orthography of the Arabic 

33 Ad-Dani, al-.\aqt, p. 129. 

56 Ad-Dani, at-.UuMm, p. i 3. 

57 Hunain b. Ishaq (1 94-260 A.H./8 10-873 c.E.): Bom at Hira in a Chrtstian (Syriac- 
speaking) family. "On account of his attitude to iconoclasm he was suspected of blas- 
phemy and excotnmunicated by Bishop Theodosius ..." (J. Ruska, "Hunain b. Ishak", 
Entjrdopaedia of Islam, First edhion, E J. Brill. Leiden, 1927, p. 336). 

58 Sibawaih (r. 1 35-180 A.H./ 752-796 C.E.): One of the greatest authorities on .Arabic 
grammar, and ihe author of thai famous tome, al-Kilab. [See KahbsiUi, Mu'jam al- 
Muw'aUiJtn, ii:584.] 

59 KahhSla, Mu'jam al-Muw'aUifln, i:662. 



Figure 10.11: Ah example of non-Qur'ank scripl dated 227 AM. 

Source: R.G. Klioury, Wahb b. Munabbih, Plale PB 9. 

Reprinted wilh Ihe publislter's kind permission. 

Figure 10. 11 is a sample half pagc from MaghazJ Wahb bin Munabbih, 
from a manuscript dated 227 A. H. Khoury providcs a fine list of peculiar 
spellings that he encountered in this tcxt,'' a sample of which I have rc- 
produccd IjcIow: 



Wahb MS 







A jji .. 










\ } s 

u y 










Among the more interesting oddities arc ihc word ji spclled as ^1 (i.e. 
withoul — ), and 'y» spclled as <jj wiilmut aiiy dot*. 

Figure 10.12 is a sample pari pagc lrom Abu 'Ubaid's GharTb al-Hadith 
preserved at Leiden Universily Library. This manuscript is flooded with 
'irregularities' in ihe skclelal douing syslem.* 1 The letler qfif(£): void of 

M Raif G. Klioury, Wahb b. Munabbih, Otlo Harrassowitz - Wicsbaden, 1972, Tcil 
I, pp. 22-27. 

'■' This list is not conclusive and is based on ihe portion shown. De Goeje has 
studied this manuscript in detail and obscrved furihcr irrcgularitics JTvl J. dc Gocjc, 
"Bcschreibuttg etner alten Handschrift von Abu 'Obaida s Garib-al-hadit", £DMG, 
xviii:78t-807 as quoted in Leinnus Warner and Hit Itgtuy (Calatogue of Ihe cmmiumorative 
eridbilitm heid in Ihe liibliolhrea Thniana from April 27 Ih lili Mur I Mh 1 970), Y,.}. Hrill, 
Leiden, !97"0, pp. 75-76}. 1 thank Prof. JJ. VViikam for this refcrencc and ihe c.olour 


dots (red arrow: lines 1 , 2 and 4); with a single dot underneath (green arrow: 
lines 3 and 4); with two dots above the character (biue arrow; last line). The 
isolated ya' (^ ):"• void of dots (light blue arrow: line 3); as before but in a 
diflTerent form (violet arrow: last line); with two dots underneath (yellow 
arrow: line 8). 

\\ *«* 

^c «-i u i f V' 9 '**!^&\ 

Figure 10.12: Another esample of a non-Our'anic scripl, daled 2:>2 A.H. 

Soime: Isidoi Vniversily Ijbrary, mannscript no. Ok 298. f. 239b. 

Rrjirodiued uritk their kind ' ptrmitshn. 

Tlie intercsting point is that uli thcsc 'irregularities' takc placc within a 
single pagc. Suroly a single copyist was involved, bui his deoision to seript 
thcsc lettcrs in multiplc siylcs suggcsts tliat all were ccjiially valid, and re- 
inforees what we diseussed carlicr regarding ihe numerous pcrmissible 
Ibrms given to the three vowels. o, ), '. irregularity' itself exists only in 
our judgmenl sinec. if boih styles werc pcrmissible at tlie lime, wc cannot 
in good conseience label tlie seribe as inconsistent. Whaicver reason we 
conjure up for the liberal palacograpliy of that era is actually unimpoi tant. 
Islamic methodologv dietates that cvcrv student must learn dircctly from 
a teacher and is never entitled to study any text on his own; so long as this 
oral tradilion remained, and the teacher was able to dcciphcr the irregu- 
larities in his own handwriting, there was no risk of corruption. 

Hundreds of excellent references are devoted to the spelling and dotting 
sehemes used in Mushafs, and for further reading I suggest: (l) Kitab an- 

1,2 In >cripting isolated ya', the seribe used two dtfferent skclctons. Sce for example 
the third line (biue arrow) and the last line (violet arrow). 


Naqt by Abu 'Amr ad-Dani (37 1-444 A.H.). Published by al-Azhar Universicy, 
Cairo; and (2) Al-MuhkamjiNaqt al-Masahifby ad-Dani, edited by Dr. 'Izzat 
Hasan, Damascus, 1 379 ( 1 960). 

Interested readers should also consult the introduction to al-BadiJi Rasm 
Masahif 'Uthman (pages 43-54), edited by al-Funaisan, where he cites eighty 
works on this topic. The main purpose of these works is to educate the 
reader on the "Uthmani conventions, and not to suggest that these vvere in 
any vvay flawed or underdeveloped. We have already observed the diserep- 
ancies betw<fcn 1 7th century written English and that of modern times, 
and if we view these changes as an evolutionary process (instead of pro- 
claiming one or the other as flawed) then that is surely the atiiiude we 
must extend to Arabic. 

6. Conctusion 

Skeletal dots (known to Arabs prior to Islam) and diacritical marks (a 
Muslim invention) were both absent from 'Uthman's endeavours to inde- 
pendently compile the Qur an. By its consonant-heavy and dolless nature, 
it was uniquely shielded from the guiles of anyoae attcmpting to bypass 
oral scholarship and learn the Qur'«in on his ovvn; surh a person would 
be readily dcteclcd if lic ever darcd lo rcciic in public. In his reluciance 
to incorporate extraneous material into the Mushaf, "Udiman was not 
alone: Ibn Mas'Od was of a similar miud. At a later date Ibrahim an- 
Nakha 1 ! {d. 96 A.H.), once noticing a Mushaf with added headings such 
as "The Beginning of [such-and-such] Sura," found it distasteful and 
ordercd that they be erased. 1 '' 1 Yahya bin Abi Kathir {d. 132 A. H.) notes, 

Dots were the iirst tl>ing incorporated by Muslims into the Mushaf, an 
act which they said brought ligiit to the text [U. clarificd it]. 

Subsequently they addcd dots at the end of cach verse to separate it 
from the next, and after that, information showing the beginning and 
end of each sura. 64 

Recently I came aeross a harsh comment on Qur'anic orthography, which 
insisted that we should follow the modern Arabic layout and discard the 
conventions of those who seripted the 'Uthmani Mushaf as the folly of 
iiliterates. I wholly disagree. It is sheer folly, on the part of this person and 
such giants as Ibn Khaldun, to fbrgct the incvitable evolution of language 

63 Ad-Dant, al-Muhkam, p. 16. 

64 See Ibn Kathir, Fada'it, vii:467. 


over time; do they believe that, after the passing of a few centuries, others 

would not step forward to denounce iheit efforts as the work of illiterates? 
A Book that has resisted any universal alterations for fourteen centuries 
is living proof that the text within belongs to Allah, Who has appointed 
Himself as Guardian. The inviolability of the original, immaculately pre- 
served for so tong, is not to be suffered the tampering and adjustments 
meted out to the Biblical Scriptures, 65 


The full scope of these tamperings will become evident in Chapters !5 and 17. 


Chapter Eleven 
causes of variant readings 

One of the gateways for an Orientalist assault on the Qur'3n is distonion 
of the text itself. In my estimate there are over 250,000 copies of the Qur'an 
in manuscript fbrm, complete or partial, from the first century of Hijra 
onwards. Errors are classified in academic circles into the dual categories 
of dehberace and unintentional, and in this vast coilection of manuscripts 
it is a certainty that many copyists must have committed unintentional 
errors. Scholars who deal vvith this subject know very well what fatigue or 
a momentary lapse of conccntration can engender, as discussed at length 
in the following works: (1) Ernst Wurthwein, The Text of the Old Testamenl, 
2nd edition revtsed and enlarged, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Com- 
pany, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1995; (2) Bart D. Ehrman, The Orthodox 
Corruption of Scripture, Oxford Univ. Press, 1993; and (3) Bruce M. Metzger, 
Tite Text of the New Testamenl, 3rd enlarged edition, Oxford Univ. Press, 

The first of thcse relates to the OT and the others to the NT. AU three 
neticulouslv categorise mistakes of this nature with terms like transposition, 
laplography, and dittography, occasionally probing into the very mind of 
:he now-deceased seribe to show what distraction must have flashed through 
lis mind as he committed his siliy mistake thonsands of years ago. 1 But 
:his same treatment is not aftbrded the Qiir'an, and in fact many errors 
- obvious scribal blunders resulting from exhaustion - are treated as genuine 
.'ariants, as evidence of corruption in the Muslim Holy Book. 

Truc that it is difficult to ascertain vvhetlier an error is intentional or 
ieliberate; let us therefore tackle the two possibiiities together, as the end 
"esult in both is tcx(ual corruption. 

As \vc have sccn, the 'Uthmani Mushaf was thoroughiy dotless. Goldziher 
'sserted that divergences in the readings of the Qur'an were due to faults 
n early Arabic palaeography, being dotless (i.e. no skeletal dots) and with- 
>ut diacriticai markings. Thus a skeleton such as JJ, whcn bereft of its dots 
itid diacriticai marks, can possess several possible readings such as: ija i JJ 
.^ l jj ij3 ijs». Thcse mean, respcctively: he was killed, elephant, before, 
r ont portion of the body, to kiss and it was said.- In this chapter I will try 

1 Refer to pp. 243-4 and pp. 287-9. 

* For a cliscussioii on whcn such a text, lacking dots, can cause corruption and when 
1 's harmless, refer to section 3 in this chapter. 



to ncgatc thc idca that dotlcss Arabic palacography coukl havc rcsultcd 
111 any kind of corruption, distortion, or lampcring within thc Qur'an. 

1 ! 

1 . 77« Ojra'at is Sttnna 

Knowlcdge of correct qira'at (thc sciencc of propcr rccitation) comcs from 
the Prophet himself, a sunna which dictates the manner of reciling each 
verse. Aspects of this are intrinsically linked with thc Qur'anic revelations: 
the text was revealed verbally, and by promulgating it verbally the Prophet 
simultaneously provided both lcxl and prominciaiion lo his communily. 
Ncithcr can be divorccd from the othor. 

'Umar and Hisham bin Hakim once differed in reading a verse from 
Sura al-Furoan; having learned this passage directly from thc Prophet, 'Umar 
asked Hisham who had taught him. He replied, "The Prophet." 3 A similar 
incident occurred with Ubayy bin Ka'b. 4 None of these Companions were 
innovating so much as a syllable: all minutiae of recitation had been in- 
heriled from the Prophet. 

Wc also Ilnd a grammariair' who dcclared tliat reciling certain words in 
this or that fashion was grammatically preferable in his opinion, through 
allerulion of.diacriticul marks wliicli bori" no woighi on ihe meanings. Yel 
seholars held steadfast to the manner of recitation that arrived through 
auf horitative channels, refusing his innovation and insisting that qira'al is 
a sunna which no one has the authority to change. 

We must note that people were not casually purchjfsing Mushafs from 
the local bazaar, having finished their morning shopping at the greengrocers 
or fishmongers, and taking them home to memorise suras by thcmselvcs. 1 ' 
Verbal sehooling from an authorised instruetor was required, generally at 

3 Al-Bukhari, Suluh, Fada'il a]-Qur'an:5. 

4 Muslim, Sahih, Musaftnn, hadlth no. 273. 

5 Ibn Shanbudh (</. 328 A.H.). See this work p. 205. 

6 As mentioned in pp. 1 05-7, the trade in Mushafs rose to prominence by the middle 
of jhe first century A.H. The manner of Isfamic education was to instruct pupils in the 
skilis of literacy, followed inimediately (or concurrcntly) wilh a reading of the Holy 
Qur'an from cover to cover, under appropriate guidance. The Qur'an was thus the 
lirst book they learned, and by its completion tliey were in a strong position to master 
the Arabic language. Naturally they had a nced for their own co])ies of the Mushaf 
afierwards, wheiher to refresh the memory or to use for instruciing others, and so the 
purchaser of the Mushaf from the local bazaar was already well versed in the art of 
oira'al from his or her carly days of sehooling, already familiar with thc suras thai lay 
within. Only in recent times has this pattern of using the Qiir'an as a teaching aid 
somcwhat relaxcd (sadly). 


the rate of five verscs a day. Such was the pace as late as the first quarter 
of the 2nd century Hijra when Abu Bakr b. 'Ayyash (d. 193 a.h.) went to 
learn the Qur'an from Ibn Abl an-Najud {d. 127 A.H.) in his youth. 7 The 
point is that no reading emanated from a vacuum or some innovator's per- 
sonal guessvork; where more than one authoritative reading existed, the 
source of this multipliciry was traceable to the Prophet. During the life of 
the Companions a book appeared on the subject of multiple readings, 
envisaged on a small scale. 8 With time larger works e\'olved, comparing 
the recitation of famous scholars from different centres and culminating 
in the work of Ibn Mujahid. 

2. The .Veedjbr Multiple Readings: Simplifting 
Recitation for Unaccustomed Masses 

The unity of dialect which the Prophet had been accustomed to in Makkah 
vanished with his arrival in Madinah. Islam's spread over the Arabian ex- 
panses meant the incorporation of nevv tribcs with nevv dialects, and for 
some of them the purity of the Quraishi vernacular proved difficuit. In his 
Sahi/j, Muslim cpiotes the fbllowing haditk. 

L'bayy bin Ka'b reported that the Prophet was near the loeale of Banu 
Ghilar when, Jibril came to him and said, "Allah has commanded you 
to recile ihe Q)ir'"m to your peopte in one dialect." To this hc said, "I 
ask Allah s pardon and lorgiveness. My people are not capablc of this." 
He then appeared for the second time and said, "Allah has commanded 
that you should recite the Qur'an to your people in tvvo dialects." The 
Prophet replied, "1 seek pardon and forgiveness from Allah, my people 
would not be able to do so."Jibri1 came for the third time and said, "Allah 
has commanded you to reeke the Quran to your people ia three dialects," 
and again he responded. "I ask pardon and forgiveness from Allah. My 
[H'ople would not be able to do this." He then canic to him for the fourth 
time and stated. "Allah has permittcd you to recite the Qur'an to your 
people in seven dialects. and in whichever dialect they recite, they will 
be correct."'' 

7 Ibn Mujahid. Kitab as-Sab'a. p. 71. 
See Arthurjeflery fed/. Miiqaddimalan Jt 'tdum at-Qufan (Two Mitqaddimas to the 
Our'amc Sciences). Cairo. 1954. p. 276. It is worth noting that prior to Ibn Mujahid 
some forty four works had already been authored on the subject [Dr. 'Abdul Had! al- 
Kadli, Qira'al Ibu Kathlr ua ji ad-Dimsat an-„\'ahawiyya (Pli.D. T/iesis), University 
of Cairo, 1975. pp. 60-65. as quoted by Ghanim Qadduri, Rasm al-Mushaf, p. 659]. 

9 Muslim, Sahih, Kitab as-Salat, hadilh no. 1789, as translated into English by A. 
Siddiqi (with some modifteations). 


Ubayy (bin Ka'b) also rcported, 

« «U' J^ 7 JUi «l>l >-l j^ f V-Jl U* J*,*. ^ *1» Jj-j Ji ij j* 
.f")U)»j t»^JI »jf*>&3 i^Ui j-ijl j^j (jwi <,i Jl .^u, ji : JtjJ. 

The Prophet encountered Jibri! at the mira' stones (on the outskirts of 
Madinah, near Quba'] and told him, "I have been sen t to a nation of 
illitcrates, among them is the prowling sheikh, the old woman and the 
young."JibrI] replied, "So command them to recttc the Qur'an in seven 

Over twenty Companions have narrated hadiths confirming that the Qur'an 
was revealed in seven dialects {^j** *t— )." To this wc can add that forty 
scholarly opinions exist as to the meaning of ahruf(litcra\ly: letters). Some 
of these opinions are very far fetehed, but mosi agree that the main objective 
was to facilitate the Qur'an's recitation for those who were unaccustomcd 
to the Quraishi dialect. Such a concession was granted ihrough the grace 
of Allah. 

Rarlicr we saw how these variant dialects resulled in disputes a few dc- 
cades later, prompting 'Uthman to prepare a Mushaf in the Quraishi dialect. 
The end tally for all multiple readings found in the skeletons of five official 
Mushals did not exceed forty charaeters, and all dispatehed reciters were 
obligated to follow this skeletal text and to reveal which authority they had 
learned their vecitations from. Zaid b. Thabit, so central to the collection 
of the Qur'an, stated that, « **~> fc- «'/«J' » vi ("The <)ira'al is a swma that is 
strictly adhered to"). These are details which wecovered in previous chapters. ' 

The term 'variants' is one that I dislike using in such cases because a 
variant rcsults, by definition, from uncertainiy. If the original author pens 
a sentence one way, and the sentence is ihen corrupted due to scribal 
errors, then we have introduecd a principlc of uncertainty; a subsequent 
editor who is unable to distinguish the correct wording from the incorrect 
will place what he believes to be the correct version in the text, whilst 
citing the others in margins. Such is the variant reading. But the Qur'an's 
case diflers distinctly because the Prophet Muhammad, Allah's sole vice- 
gerent for the wahy'i reception and transtnission, himself taught certain 
verses in multiple ways. There is no principle of doubt here, no fog or 
confusion, and the word 'variant' fails to convey this. Multiple is a far more 
accurate deseription, and so in that spirit I will refer to them here as multiple 

'0 Ibn Hanbal, Musnad, v: 132, hadllh no. 21242. 
1 ' Sec as-Suyfitl, al-llqan, i: 1 3 1 • 1 4 1 . 
12 As-SuyOti, al-llqan, i:21 1. 


readings. One reason behind this phenomenon was the divergence of accents 
in Arabia and the need to accommodate them in the short term, as discussed 
above. A second reason may have been an attempt to better elucidate the 
various shades of nieaning within a particular verse by supptying two 
wordings, each one being sanctioned by Allah. A well-known example of 
this is in Sura ai-Fcliha, where the fourth verse can be recited as malik (Owner) 
or medik (King) of the Day of Judgement. Both wordings were taught by the 
Prophet and therefore constitute multiple, rather than variant, readings. 
Not surprisingly, Orientalist scholars have rejected tlie Muslim explanarion 
and sought to cement theories of their own, As a natural eitension co his 
efforts towards a critical edition of the Oiir'an, meant to highlight variations, 
Arthur Jeflery agreed in 1926 to collaborate with Prof. Bergstrasser in pre- 
paring an archive of materials from which it would some day be possible 
to write a history of the development of the Qur anic text." In his quest 
he examined roughly 1 70 volumes - some from reliable, but most from 
unreliable, sources. His collecuon of variants takes up some 300 pages in 
printed form, covcring the personal Mushafs of approximateJy thirty scholars. 
In this chapter I will limit myself to critical examination of this aspect of 
JefFery's efforts, his work on variants. Other aspects will be tackled later. 

3. Main Cause of Multiple Readings (Variants); the Orientalist View 

According tojeffery, the lack of dots in 'Uthman's Mushaf meant that the 
reciter was at liberry to supply his own markings, in accordancc with the 
context and mcaning of the Syah as he pcrceived it. u If he came across a 
dotless word which could be read: «-J», *JUi, -uLy or *-J~ he had a choke of 
characters, using whichever dots and marks were necessary to conform the 
verse to his undcrstanding of it. Prior tojeffcry's timc, Goldzihcr and others 
also asserted that the usc of the early dotless seript had engendered vari- 
ations. To bolster his clatm, Goldziher pro\ - ided a few potential examples 
and divided them in two parts. 15 

13 A. Jeflery, Materials Jbr the Histoiy of the Tex( of the Our'an, EJ. Brill. Leidcn, 1937. 1 
may add that JefFrey uses a host of Judeo-Chriscian jargon in arranging this archive: 
"Canonization by Ibn Mujahid", p. 1 1; "Muslim Massora", p. 3, 5 (foomote); and using 
t for death instead of d. (a cross so as to Christianise the poor soul!), j>. 14, ete. 

! * A. jeflery, "The Textual History of the Qur'an", in A. Jeflery, The Oui'an as Scripture, 
R.F. Moorc Co., Inc., New York, [932, p. 97. 

15 'Ahdul-Hallm NajjSr, Madhahib at-Tafsir al-lslaml Cairo, 1955, pp. 9-16. This is an 
Arabic translation of Goldziher's work. 


1 . Variations due to lack of skeletal dots. Three examples will suflice: 

a. b } j£s-i pz$ U) can be read: C} } j£j-^^ Uj. 16 

b. iy-a *l)i J^- J fMs* «i' can be read: i>^i Jfl J_- ^ ^^ ijj . " 

c. V-< £ VfjJi J-^s </ JJ> >*> can be read: i^^l.Ji J*.^ ^i'i y,j . "> 

2. Variations due to lack of diacriiicat markings. 

For those unfamiliar wilh the history of qird'al, such examples may seem 
valid. But aji theories must be tested before they can be deemed viable 
however, and Islamic studies are unfortunately littercd with ones that have 
been draftec? and pressed into service without the benefit of testing. So let 
us evaluate their premises. 

Jeffery and Goldziher completely ignored the tradition of oral scholar- 
ship, the mandate that only through qualified instruetors could knowledge 
be gained. A great many Qur'anic phrases contextually allow the inclusion 
of more than one set of dots and diacritical marks, but in the lion's share 
of cases, seholars rectte them in just one way. Where variations arise (and 
this is rare) the skeleton of both readings remains faithful to the 'Uthmani 
Mushaf and each group can justify its reading based on a chain of authority 
extending back to the Prophet. 1 * With this wc can casily dismiss the notion 
of cach reciter whimsically supplying his own dots and marks. Had there 
becn even a scmblance of faet in their iheories, considor then tlie nunihcr 
of ivciUts and the tliotisands of skelclons (hai can Im> read in («mi - <>r five 
ways; would nol the list of variants run into hundreds of thousunds or per- 
haps millions? In the Mushaf 's entirety Ibn Mujahid (d. 324 a.h.) counted 
roughly one thousand multiple readings only.' 20 To compare theory with 
reality is to demonstrate the fallacy of their hypotheses. 

A few concrete examples will help to cement my point. 

(a) First examp)e (in the first column, the word in question is marked 
in dilferent colour; the middle column is the sflra:vcrse rcfercncc): 

lfi Qur'an 7:48. This is a lalsc example, see Ibn Mujahid, Kitab as-Snb'a, pp. 281-2. 

17 Qur'an4:94. 

18 Ofir'an 7:57. 

13 The Muslim community ai large did not trouble itsclf with tindih when meinor- 
ising the Qur'an, because this was impractical and unnecessary for the laynian given 
the Qur'5n's ubiquifous presence in every home and on every tongue. Professional 
reciters and scholars did follow imads howcvcr. as ihey were gtiardiaus eiitrusted with 
making surc that the tcxt rcaching the pubiic was accurate and i'ree of corrupiiom. 
Even I, ivriting in (he I5th century A.H./2Ist century C.E. can provide an isuati for the 
rental km of the Qur'fn». 

2 " Seholars exantinhig 'Ulliman's ollicial copies noted dillerences in lorty charaeteis; 
these werc. based on divevgcnces in the skeleton itsclf. Ibn Mujahid's one thousand 
multiple readings are due to the varying placcnicnt of dots and marks on certain words, 
in addition to the skeletal differences. 





Some recite iUU and some «ItL 



Unanimously read ^ii"-. 



Unanimously read *iU» 

The colored word can be contextually read in all three verses as either 

(b) Second example: 

J-ijJl J*~ GjiOlj 


Some read -a-Aj others -»-i_, 

''-^jiV'ji- &tA*3 


Unanimously read 'J-ij 



Unanimously read u_Aj 


Some read U-ij others Ij-*j 



Unanimously read -»-!•,> 



Unanimously read u-ij 

rlij iJJ£iijiijii 


Unanimously read u_a_, 



Unanimously read | J-i J 

Lexicographical!y both forms are valid in each case. 
(c) Third example: 

i£* % \'yU i.'^laZ, y C 


Unanimously read i.r> 

i>Vji^i ( ^-kjiiufV 

7: S 88 

Unanimously read ">/# 

iiiHj 1 ^ j-iijiiLhf 


Unanimously read i^> 



Unanimously read '>» 


Tllli III.VmKV ok ini; «m'r'amc i i:\ i 

liii % tj& yJ^i d>jSO^ ^5 


Unanimously rcad '^ 


Unanimously rcad i,j» 



Some read '^> others 'j-* 

Again, lexicographically both forms arc valid in each case. 11 

I could spill much ink in csling mow o^aniplcs, but «lio abovc arc sullii km 
to prove my point. Thcre are lilerally thousands of insunces where two forms 
of a word arc both rotiiraiiiiilly valid but i>nly onc is collcclively iiscd; so 
many inslanccs in i'act, lluu Uiey ceasc to bc coincidcncc and ovcrwbolni 
Jeffcry and Goldziher's theories. 

Let us ask: in incorporating dots into a dotiess tcxt, when docs a tcxtual 
. error cause corruption and become liar m fiil? When vve do not have ihc 
means for dislinguishing what is correct from what is not, thcn this is cause 
for alarm. Suppose that vve have two manuscripts, each bearing onc of the 
following: ■v^* pi «i .A' J-r» "Hc kisscd'thc woman, ihen ran away", and 
^yb^«l_,ii Jjl» "Hc killed the woman, thcn ran away". Now in the abscncc 
of a contcxt with which to cxtraci a cluc, deciding which is right bccomos 
impossible; cleaiiy wc have a lestual problem confroming us. Assumc ncxi 
that we have ten manuscripts with ditlerent transmission cliains, nine of 
them containing: ^v ^ ~*P J-r» "He kissed the woman, thcn ran away", 
while the tenth bears *->j* ,J «i/ 1 J^», that is, "Woman 's elephant thcn he 
' ran away." Bcsides being absurd, this sentence is contrary to the other nine 
manuscripts that unanimously agree on a sensible mcaning, so that discarding 
the 'elephant' reading becomes the only sensible answer. The s'ame holds true 
for Qur'anic manuscripts. If we sclect one hundred Mushafs, originating 
from numerous locaies and each bearing a difierent hand-writing and a 
diffcrcnt date, and if all but onc in this entire collection complclcly agrec 
- moreover, if the aberrant one makes no sense - thcn any rational person 
will attribute the aberraney to a scribal error. 

Jeffery accuses Muslims of tampering with their Book. 

When we come to the Oiir'an, we find that our early manuscripts are 
invariably withoui points or vowel signs, and are in Kufic seript very 
diflerent from the seript used in our modern copie.s. The modernizing 

of the seript and the orthography, and supplying the tcxt with points 

21 for a dctaiied study of this toptc, see 'Abdtil-Faitah al-QadI, "al-Qira'at fi Nazar 
al-Mustashriqin wa al-Mulhidfn", Majallal al-Atfw, Ramadan ! 390/ 1 970 oiwards. 


and vowel signs, vvere it is true, well intencioned, but they did involve 
a tampering with the text. That precisely is our problem. 22 

He commits a blunder by ctaiming that the earliest knovvn Mushafs 
were in the Kufic script, for in fact they were in the slanted Hejazi script 
as reproduced in Figure 7. 1 P Moreover he considers the Kufic script very 
different from vvhat is used in modern times, and deems this updating of 
script to be a form of tampering. Suppose I scribble an entire article by 
hand and send it off to the publisher, should I then hold him guilty of 
tampering when I see my article splashed out in Helvetica or Times New 
Roman? Had Arabic been a dead language, such as Hieroglyphic, and 
had the Qur'an been lost for a few hundred years, as with the Torah, 
then textual tampering may havc reared its head: for we would then be 
attempttng to decipher a long lost book in an unreadable script, imposing 
our guessvvork throughout. In reality though the Kufic script is still readable 
today, and the oral nature of the Qur an's transmission is instilled in Muslims 
to this day, making it abundantly clear that Jefiery has no case for his hue 
and cry.'-' 4 

4. Secondary Cause of Mulliple Readings (Varianls) 

In collecting research material, Jefiery hasemployed the OricntaJists' metho- 
dology while rejecting the Muslim technique of crilically evaluating isnads^ 
He describes his criteria: 

And tliose of the analyttc camp, their method is to collect a//opinions, 
spcculations, conjccturcs, and inclinations so to conclude throtigh scrutiny 
and discovery which of it agrees with the place, time and conditions at 

the time taking into conskleration the text irrespective of the narration 

22 A. Jefiery; "The Textual History of ihe*an", iri A. Jefiery; The Qur'aii as Scriptuir, 
pp. 89-90. 

23 The K-Gfic script achieved prominence shortly aftenvards, towards the middle of 
the first century A.H. Refer to the Kofic inscriptioti in Fignres 9. 1 2-9. 1 4 (dated respec- 
tively 40, 80 and 84 a.h.). 

" Here we can mentioti that most Orientaiists believe in the OT as Scrtpture, despite 
the Hebrew script having been altered twice and the diaeri t ical marks not beiiig supplicd 
to the cotisonamal text till the 1 Oth Century C.E., a span of nvcnty five centuries. Surely 
this massive gulf had an irreparable impaet on the Hebrew text used today. [See this 
work pp. 238-56.] 

25 The chain of witnesses who were involved in transmitting the event. Refer to the 
next ehapter. 


160 Tllt; MlhTOKY <)!■' I III". yrR'.Wu: II, M 

chain, To establish the text of the Torah and the Bible in a similar way 
whcn cstablishing the (cxt of Homcr's pociry or the lettersof Aristollc, 

the phitosopher.-'' 

Ccrlainly wc caimot relivc the but wc can recall panu of i< through 
the witness system and its valuations. It is thoroughly dishonest, in dealing 
with witnesses, to place the testimony of a tmstworthy and accurate person 
at the same level as that of a known liar. Such is the Muslim seholar's stand- 
point. Yet Jeffery's methodology gives credence to the claims o( liars over 
the honest ones; 27 so long as their purpose was served, hc and his colleagues 
accepted all variant material allegedly aseribed to f bn Mas'ud or aiiyone 
else, regardless of how unknown or unreliable the sourcc, while downplaying 
the wcallh of well-known rcadings. 

H e argues that aside from the lack of dots (which I have responded to), 
variances also emerged because some reciters utilised texts predating 'Uth- 
man's Mushaf, which occasionally differed from the 'Uthmani skeleton 
and which were not destroyed despite the Caliph's orders. 28 But this claitn 
is brandished without any supporting evidence. His colleciion of variants 
from Ibn Masud's Mushaf, for example, is void from the start because none 
of his even cites a "Mushaf of Ibn Mas'ud'. Mosi of his evidence 
simply states that Ibn Mas'ud recited this verse in that way with no proof 
or chains of narration; it is nothing more than gossip, purc hcarsay, and 
to elevate it from its low charaeter and use it as an argument against well- 
proven recitations, is to refuse the distinetion between a narrator's honesty 
and falsehood. 29 

Jeffery's allegations extend beyond Ibn Mas'ud however, so here I will 
briefly tackle an aberrant report which states that Caliph 'Ali read a verse 
in contradietion to the 'Uthmani Mushaf. The reading is: (v-'j'j s**^i 
s-*- ^ OL-iyi 0" tyJl ) [adding two extra words in verse 1 03: 1] , 30 The author 
of al-MabanP^ denounccd this report as false on threc counts: 

2l > Sec Archur Jeffery's (cd.), af-Afasahif, Iiuroducttoii (in Arabic), p. 4. 

27 This is akin to someone who owns a house for generations and has all the necessarf 
deeds and proof to back his claim, only to chance aeross a miserable looktng stranger 
who appears from nowhere and starts claiming the house as his. Employing Jeffery's 
methodology we have to accept the stranger's claim and eviet the current tenant because 
the stranger's story is aberrant, sensationaSistic, and contrary to what everyone else is 

28 See Jeffery (ed.), al-Masahif, Introduction, pp. 7-8. 

29 Ibn Mas'ud's 'Mushaf, and Jeffery's analysis of it, are important topies for which 
I have devoted much of Chapter 1 3. 

30 A. Jeflcry, Materials, p. 192. 

31 A. Jelfery (ed.), Muqaddimatan, pp. 103-4. 




a. 'Asim bin Abi an-Najud, one of the most prominent students of as- 
Sulamf. who 'm turn was 'AJi's most respected student, relates that 
'Ali read this verse exactly as given in the 'Uthmani Mushaf. 

b. 'AH ascended to the caliphate after 'Uthman's assassination. Had he 
believed that his predecessor was guilty of omitting certain words, 
surely it was his obligation to rectify the error. Else he would have 
been accused of betraying his faith. 

c . 'Uthman's efforts enjoyed the backing consensus of the entire Muslim 
commtmity; 'Al! himself said that no one voiced any objections, and 
were he dispkased he would surely have been vociferous. 32 

This scene alone, of the Prophet's Gompanions in their thousands eyeing 
the bonftre as old Qur'anic fragments were tossed in, is a powerful testimony 
that they all asscnted to the puriry of the Mushaf 's text. No additions, sub- 
tractions, or corruptions. Anyone who rejects this view and brings forth 
something new, claiming it as a pre-'Uthmanic text which was favoured 
by this or that Companion, is slandering the very foith of these Gompanions. 
Even Ibu Abi Dawud, author of al-Masahifand the purveyor of many varian t 
gira'ats which clash with the 'Uthmani text, categorically dcnies their value 
as Qur'an. He says, "We do not sttbmit that anyone should recite the Qur'an 
except what is in 'Uthman's Mushaf. U' anyone recites in his prayer against 
this Mushaf, I wil! order him to re-do his prayer." 3 * 

The formative stagcs of the OT and NT occurred in epochs of great 
voiatility; the politteal realities throwing the two Ccxts itito complcte disarray. 
In seeking to replicate these vices in the Opr'anic text, Western seholars 
view alt Muslim evidence with a jaundiced eye whilst the OT and NTare 
given the benefit of the doubt whenever possible. ;u Whikr misgivings on 
the authcmiciiy of his varian t material linger in Jcflcry's mind, he never- 
theless ftlls his book with them. 

Sonic of the variants scem linguistically tmpossible... Some givc one 
the impression of beingthe inventions of later philologers. . . The great 
majority, however, metil consideration as gciuiinc suivivafe from the pre- 
'UthmSnic stage of the tcxt, though only after they have passed the 
most searching criticism of modern seholarship... shall we be free to 
use them in the attempted reconstruetion of the history of the text. SD 

See this work p. 94. 

33 Ibti Abi Dawud, al-MasShif, pp. 53-5+. 

i4 Recently 1 happened to re-read the cover jaeket of JuynhoU's work, Muslim Tradition, 
whose cover picturc is taken from the oldest dato/Arabic manuscript on record written 
on paper. The note reads jemphasis added): "This manuscript was alkgedSy copied in 
252 A.H./866 a.D." How many times can we expect to see such diseretion in their dealings 
with the OT, NT and other literature? 

35 A. Jeffery, Materials, Preface, p. x. Emphasis added. 


162 TH E H I STO UVUlill K (_>UR*A N [(.; | LX l' 

This merit, andjeffery's "searching criticism of modern scholarship", are 
sadly nothing more than slogans flaunted about with little or no mcaning. 

5. Allmrtg a Wordfor its Synonym During Recitation 

Goldziher, Blachere and others uphold lliat in early Muslim socicty, changing 
a word in the Qur'an for its synonym was pcrfeetly tolcrablc. 3 " Thcir basis 
for this claim is two-pronged: 

* At-Tabari rcports through 'Umat' that the rYophet said, "O 'Umai; 
all of the Quran is correct [i.e. it will remain valid if you accidentaily 
skip some verses], unless you mistakenly slip from a verse espousing 
Alhlh's mcrcy for onc that informs of His Wralh, and vicc vcrsa."- 17 

This hadith has proven itself a fertile ground for active imaginations, 
for those insist ing that synonyms could be used frecly so long as the 
spirit of the words was suslained. Was ihis mr lho casi*? \Ve know 
from our legalistic dcalings that no aulhor will conseni to have his 
wording replaced by a slew of synonyms, irrcspccttvc of how accur- 
atcly chosen. In the Qur'an's casc, not being the produet of carthly 
authorship, even the Prophet did not possess the authority to alter 
its verses. So how is it that he should allow others to do so? :W If a person 
misquotes an ofltce elerk accidentaily, its impaet may bc minimal, but 
misquoting a magistrate will instigate far greater repercussions; how 
then if onc inknlionally misquotes the Almighty Himself ? 

Anyone with a habit of reciting from memory knows well how 
easily the mindean slip, j uni pin g to another sura lialf a Mushaf away 
while the person continucs unaware. In learing mistakes of this nature, 
people may have chosen to refrain entirely from reciting from memory. 
Ever mindful of encouraging his Companions to memorise and re- 
cite as much as possible, the Prophet's statenient was a great relief 
to the community's apprehensions on this account. 

• The second basis for this Orientalist claim is that, in many instances, 
the qira'at of Ibn Mas'ud and others were peppered with exegeticat 
commentary (Jj_»-*Wy), Al-Bukhan records the following: 

36 R. Blachere, Iniroduction au Coran, 1947, pp. 69-70; see also 'Abdus-Sabur Shahin, 
Tarikh al-Qur'an, pp. 84-85. 

37 At-Tabari, Tafsir, i: 13. 

38 Quran ! 0: 1 5 reads: "And if Our verses are reciied to them in all their clarity, those 
who do not wish to meet Us retort, 'Bring us a Qur'an other than this, or alter it'. Say 
[O Muhammad), 'h is not for rac to changc it of my own accord; I only follow what is 
revealed to me. I dread, should I disobey my I-ord, the purudimcni of a mosi tremcndous 



Narrated Nafi', "Whenever Ibn 'Umar recited the Qur'an he 
woutd not speak to anyone riil he had finished. Once I held the 
Our'an while he recited Sura at-Baqam from memory; he stopped 
abmptly at a certain verse and asked, 'Do you know in what 
connecrion this verse was revealed?' I replied, 'No.' He said, 'It 
was revealed in such-and-such connection.' He then resumed 
his recitation." 39 

From this we can deduce that some scholars proffered explanatory 
notes to theii listcncrs during the-course of recitation. w This cannot 
be considered a valid variance in gira'at nor can we assume it to be 
part of the Qur'an. Some Orientalists allege that these scholars were 
attempting to improve upon the Qur'an's text; such a claim is btas- 
phemous, insinuating that the Companions regarded themselves 
as more knowledgeable than Allah the All-Knowing, the All-Wise. 

6. Conclusion 

Having examined Jeflery and Goldziher's hypotheses, and considered the 
appropriate evidence, we have no recourse bu t to cast their theories aside. 
The variations they predict are nowhere to be found, in cotmtless instances 
where a skeleion can contextually admit more than one set of dots and 
markings; the rare cases of authoritative divergcnce in gira'al by their very 
nature harbour no impact on the meaningof the \exi. n Goldziher himself 
. acknowledged this, 4 '- as did Margoliouth: 

I» numcrous cases the ambiguity of the script which lead to a variant 
rcading was of little consequencc. 4:i 

In their eagerness to prove textual corruption on a par with the OT 
and NT, Orientalists discount the religio-political condition of the newly 

39 Al-Bukhari, Sahih, n: 38, hadith no. 50. 

40 'Abdus-Sabur Shahln, Tarikh al-Our'an, pp. 15-16. Here Goldziher admits that some 
of the additions were exegetical in nature. 

4 ' A far cry from many of the Biblical variations found in manuscripts, such as John 
1:18 ("an only One. God" and "the only begotten Son"), which contain a worid of 
differencc. And according to P\V. Comfort, the literal translation is "a unique God" 
[Early Manuscripts & Modern Translalions of the j\'ew lis/amen', Baker Books, 1990, p. 105]. 
For detail see the discussion on manuscript y75 (Bodmer Papyrus XIV-XV) in pp. 286-7. 

1,2 'Abdul-Halim Najjar, Madhahib at-Tafstr al-IslSmi, pp. 12-13. 

43 D.S. Margoliouth, "Textual Variations", TheAtosltm World, Oct. 1925, vol. 15, no. 4, 
p. 340. ■ ■ - ■ 

1 64 TH K H ISTORY <>!■ I H li <^U R' A N 1 C TE \T 

born Muslim state, and how it differed from the turmoil of thcjudco 
Christian communities in thcir infancies. The disparity could nol be more 
slriking. A child of wcll-eslablished lincago is boing compared with mie 
abandoned before an orphanage, and ihe irony is ihat in determining the 
parentage of this known child, the procedurc for the abandoned one is 
being insislcd on. I have cndcavourcd to show the gaping llaws in Orientalis) 
logic but, as my previous experiences have taught mc, M I expect that all 
these observations will go totally ignored by that camp. Hero I simpiy seck 
to point out the fallacy of their approachcs, but I am very much aware that 
these duels of refutation must end somewhere; otherwise Muslim seholars 
will be kept busy in an endless war of words. 

As for the pious Muslim there can be no qucslion thal Allah, vowing 
repeatedly to preserve His Book, would never have selected a 'defcctive' 
language or seript to carry the burden of His final revelations, I n its literary 
capacity, depth of expression, poeticism, orthography and palaeography, 
Arabic was sulficiently advanced that Allah blessed it as His choice from 
among all others. And from then it was the privilege of the Muslim tnasses 
to continue reciting it in the original, and to incorporate markings so that 
non-Arabs may also recite ihc original with easc. 

Longhave 1 alluded to the Islamic methodology and its pivotal role in 
preserving the gira'al of the Qur'5n and the sunna of the Prophet free from 
adulteration throughout the centuries. Examining tliis methodology in detail 
is the aim of my next chapter. 

44 Mosi of my earfy work, such as Studies in Eariy Hadith Literatttre, my criticism of 

Goldziher, and On Schachl's Origins of Muhammadanjunspnuience {a work devoted to refuting 
Schacht), are ail serious academic works which Prof. John Burton labeiled as 'Islamic 
Perspective' [An Introduciion to tltt Hadith, Edinburgh Univ. Press, ] 994, |>. 206] and which 
have been generally ignored in academic circles. 


Chapter Twelve 

The Jewish and Christian Scriptures suffered at the hands of the very 
neople vvho should have been their most statwart defenders. Whereas in 
previous chapters our aim was to acquire familiarity with Muslim conduct 
towards both'the Qur'an and sunna, due appreciation of these Muslim en- 
deavours might perhaps not come about until they are thrown into the 
sharpest relief through comparison with the Biblical Scriptures. A detailed 
discussion of the Muslim educational methodology becomes indispensable 
in this regard - a unique science, unsurpassable even now, vvhich was 
instrumental in the faithful preservation of the Qur'an and sunna in 
compliance with the Divine Will: 

2 4 ■::;■■ jjjiii '^ ^j'f^ ^ j* bj ► 
"Ilir have, withotit doubl, seni down the message; and We will assuredly 
guard it (from corrupHon). " 

Becausc the Qur'an explicitly cites that the Scriptures werc corruptcd 
from within, the Muslim community fclt a pressing need to safeguard the 
Qur'an from all dubious influences. Throughout Islamic history the kujjai, 
committing the Book fully to hcart and numbering in their millions, from 
adoleseents to the elderly, served as one cornerstone of this safeguard; 
this alone was more than the Torah and Gospels ever cnjoyed, but the 
precautions did not end there. 

To write a book using a false name is tremendously easy; in the literary 
world the use of pen names is commonplace. Similarly, it is possible to 
tamper with someone else's work then republish it under the original 

' This chapter is highly specialised; its main purpose is to illustrate how Muslim 
seholars devised a unique system for transmission of knowledge, which helped 
enormously in both evaluating the accuracy of the information as well as safeguarding 
it from internal and external corruptions, This is, in faet, a very brief diseussion, and 
anyone with further interest in this topic is advised to refer to my forthcomtng book, 
Islamic Studies: ll'kal Melhodology? Inevitably there are other readers who will find this 
chapter dry and esoteric, and may indeed choose to skip to this chapter's conclusion, 
as it will not hinder their understanding of subsequent chapters {though it may 
hinder their full appreciation of them). 

2 Quran 15:9. 


author's name. How can such mischievous doings be prevented? In seeking 
an answcr Muslims dcviscd a working solution long ago, developing a 
watertight system which they employcd faithfully for cight or ninc ccnturics; 
only with (lio weakciiingof Islam 's politual arena was this proteduiv dis- 
cuniinucd and ncglcclcd. Examining this syslcm ciitails cntcring thc vcry 
heart of how Islamic knowledge was taught and learned. 

1 . The Hungerfor Information 

Before thc advcnt of Islam, sources do not rccord thc cxistcncc of any 
Arabic books in thc Pcninsula. Thc first book in Arabic was in fact the 
Our'Sn, its first revealcd word bcing iqra' ( '^5[: rcad). Wilh thcse syllablcs 

the pursuit of knowledge becamc an obligation: to memorise at least a 
few suras by heart, regardless of whether one was Arab or otherwise, so 
that the daily prayers could be performed. Upon rcaching Madinah thc 
Prophet hastened to accommodate this need, arranging for schools 3 and 
ordering that anyone with even a minimal amount of knowledge (^'j*!* 
*-J jlj) should pass it on to others. The sixty scribcs who workcd for him 
are a tribute to this burgeoning iiteracy. 4 

During thc liinc of thc Caliphs, and cspccially thc llrsl llircc lili 35 
A.H., Madinah served as the religious, military, economic and administrative 
centre of.die Islamic nation, casting its influence from Afghanistan to Tunisia, 
and from southern Turkey to Yemen, Muscat, and Egypt. Extensive archives 
dealing with these faccts of government were cstablished, categorised and 
stored during 'Uthman's reign in a Bayi al-QaratJs {^~ I»ijiH ^: archh'e 
house). 5 Administrative lessons, religious rulings, political and military 
strategies, and all of the Prophet's traditions, werc passed on to subsequent 
generations through a unique system.'' 

3 For details see M.M. al-A'zatni, Studks in Earty Hadith Ukralure, pp, 183-199; al- 
A'zaml, Studies in ffadiik Methodology and Liltralure, American Trust Publication, 
Indianapolis, 1977, pp. 9-31 

4 See M.M. al-A'zamt, Kuttab an-Nabi, 3rd edition, Riyad, 1401 (1981). This is a 
detailed study of the seribes of thc Prophet Muhammad. 

5 Al-Baladhuri, Ansab ai-Asliraf, i:22. It appears to have becn ncxt to Caliph 
'Uthman's house, where Manvan hid himsclf when thc Caliph was assassinated. 

6 Scc for examplc, Lctters of thc Sccotid Caliph 'Umar, 'Abdur-RazzSq as- 
San'ani, Musamiaf, for example: vol I, pp. 206-291, 295-6, 535, 537; vol 7, pp. 94, 
i 5 1, 175, 178, 187, 210, ... etc. For further detail scc al-A'zami, "Nash'at al-KUaba 
al-Fiqhiyya", Dirasai, ii/2; 1 3-24. 


2. Personal Contaet: An Essential Elemen! for Learn'mg 

Time is an essential reference for all events: past, present and fiiture. The 
present momem instantaneously becomes part of the past; as soon as it 
does so, it is imperceptible. Most past incidents escape our grasp and remain 
intangible, but if they do approach us indirecdy (such as through written 
material) then the accuracy of the information becomes a key concern. 
When the Prophet passed into history, and preservation of the Book and 
sunna came to rest on the Gompanions' shoulders, the community set up an 
intricate system to minimisc the uncertainties inherent in the transfer of 
knowledge. This was based on the Iaw of witness. 

Consider this simple statement: .-J drank some water from a cup while 
standing. We know of this person's existence, but to verify this statement's 
truth based on reason is impossibte. Perhaps A did not drink the water at 
all, or drank it by cupping his hands.. or while sitting; none of tliese possibilities 
can be excluded by deduetion. So the case hinges on the truthfulness of 
the narrator and his accuracy as an observer. Thus C, a neweomer who 
has not seen the incident, must rely for his information on the eyewitness 
accouni of B. In reporting this event to others C must then specify his 
source, so that the statement's veracity depends on: 

1. B 's accuracy in observing the incident, and his truthfulness in 
reponing it. 

2. C'a accuracy in comprehending the information, and his ovvn 
truthfulness in reponing it. 

Venturing into the personal lives of B and Cwould not generally interest 
the eritie or historian, but Muslim seholars viewcd the subject differcntly. 
In their opinion anyonc makingstatements about A was testifying, or bearing 
witness, to w liat. -I had done; likewise C was bearing witness to ffs account, 
and so on with eacli person testifying about the proceding narrator in the 
chain. \ alidating this report meant a critical examination of each element 
within this chain. 

3. Beginning and Development of the Isnad System 

This method was the genesis o!" the isnad ( jI^-)) system. Originating during 
the Prophet's lifetime and developing into a proper seience by the end of 
the ftrst century A.H., its foundations lay in the Companions' custom of 
relating hadlths to each other. Some of theni made arrangements to attend 
the Prophet's cirele in shifts, informing the others of what they had seen 
or heard;' in so doing they must naturally have said, "The Prophet did so 

7 A]-Bukh5rT. Sahih, Bab at-Tanft«\ib fT al-'Ilm. 



and so" or "The Prophet said so and so". It is also natural (hat anyone 
gaining such second-hand inlbrniation, in reponing to a third person, would 
disclose his original source along with a l'ull accouni of ihe incident. 

During the fourth decade of ihe Islam ic calendar these rudimcntary 
phrases acquired importance because of thejlttm («^: disturbancc/revolt 
againsi the ihird Caliph 'Uthmfm, vvho was assassinated in 35 a.h.) raging 
at the lime. They seived as a precautionary step for sclioiars who, becoming 
cautious, insisted on serutinising ihe sourccs of all iulbrmaiion." Ibn Slrin 
(d. 110 A.H.) says, "Scholars did not inquire about the isnad [initially], bui 
when thejitaa broke out they demanded, 'Name to us your men [i.e. the 
haditk's narrators]'. As for those who belonged to ahl as-sunna, their hadllhs 
were accepted and as for those who were innovators, their hadittis were 
cast aside."* 

Towards the elose of the lirsl cenlury this praelice had bloomed inio a 
full-fledged seience. The necessity of learning the Qur'an and sunna meant 
that for many cenluries the word 'tim {(J*: knowledge) was applied solely 
to religiou's studies, 10 and in those eager tinies the study of hadtlh gave birth 
to ar-rMa (. *U-,ft: the journey in pursuit of knowledge). Deemed one of the 
essential requirements of scholarship, we can gauge its importance from 
-a remark by Ibn Ma'ln (d. 233 A.H.) that anyone who limits his studies to 
his city alone and refuses to journey, cannot rcach scholarly maturity." 

Evidence for the transmission of 'ibn in this manner comes from thousands 
of hadilhs bearing identical wordings but stemming from diverse corners 
of the Islamic world, each tracing its origins back to a common source - 
the Prophet, a Companion, or a Successor. That this congruity of content 
spread aeross so wide a distance, in an age lacking the immediacy of modern 
communication means, stands testimony to the validity and power of the 
isnad system. 12 

B The recent research of Dr. 'Umar bin Hasan Fallata shows that even up io 60 
A.H., it is difficult to find a fabricated kadlth on the authority of the Prophet [al- Utufu 
Ji al-Haditk, Beirut, 1 40 1 ( 1 98 1 )} . 

9 Muslim, $aliih, Introduction, p. 1 5; see also al-A'zaml, Studies iii Early Haditli IJteratme, 
p. 213. 

10 AI-A'zami, Studies in Early Haditli Literatur?, p. 183. 

' ' Al-Khattb, ar-Rikla, Damascus, 1 395 (1975), p. 89. 

12 Al-A'zaml, Studies in Early Hadith Literalure, p. 15, hadlth no. 3 (Arabic seetion). 
Not all haditks spread so widc-ly. On the other hand, thousands of books havc becn 
lost which would presumably have provided evidence for the spread of information 
on a much larger scale. 



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4. The Authentication of isnad and Hadllh 

In the mind of hadltli critics, the final acceptancc oi' a report did not rest solely 
on its authenticity; in facl accuracy and auiheiiiiciiy ww both iiisuflicicni 
in the eyes of the muhaddilhm (jy-v^ 1 : scholars of hadilh), for they souglil ihrec 
more conditions: 

1. Ali narrators in the chain had to be thiqa («*: trustworihy). 15 

2. The chain of transmission had to be unbroken. 

3. Positive support for the statement from all available cvidence was 
a prerequisite. 

i. Establishing Trustworthincss 

Ascertaining a narrator's reliability depends on two criteria: (a) morality 
and (b) sound knowledge. 


Here is how the Qtiran describes the qnalifications of a vvilness: 

"... and kikefor wilness twopersonsfrom amoiigyou, endued uilhjuslke." 

~ i * . , 

"... sudi asyou approve qf,Jor witnesses." 

'Umar used the phrase "U»^Ji Ju*Si Ux* ojU" vvhen addressing 'Abdui- 
Rahman bin 'Auf ("To us you arc righteous and approved of "). The vvord 
'adl{ J-i* : of righteous conduet), delineating a» Islamically-sound charaeter, 
is defined more concretely by as-SuyuiI:" 1 

"ii)J* f J 1 >" J 'J—*' 1 *^l— ' J- 1 W— <^W* tbiK{ i U ■ o&j J' " 

"[It refers to] a Muslim who has reached maturity, is mentally sound, free 
from the causes of indeceney, and who abides by the slandards and norois 
of his community." Ibn al-Mubarak (118-181 a.h.) also defines personal 
charaeter, stating that an acceptable narrator must: 

• Pray in congregation (**ui-iftiL*). 

• Avoid nalndh ( J*j), a drink prone to fermentation if stored for long 

15 The wor<I llriqa is here used in its linguisiic mcaning. li is nol a haditli icrin. 

16 Qur'an 65:2. 

17 Qur'an 2:282. 

18 As-SuyOtt, Tadrtb, i:300. 



• Avoid telling even a single lie throughout his adult life. 

• Be frce from any mental disqualificaiions.''' 

A man may aseend the seholariy ladder to great heights, but if his morals 
are doubtfiil ihen a hadith narrated by him is rejected even if it is true. 20 
The muhaddithtn's consensus is that all scliolars - with the exception of the 
Companions, whose charaeter has been vouched for by Allah and his 
Prophet - reejuire this testimony of righteous conduet if their word is to 
be accepted. Here is an esample: 

Figure 12.2: A pagejiwu Nuskhai Abu az-Zubair bin 'Adi al-KM 

19 Al-Khaiib, nl-Kifaja, p. 79. 

20 Al-.-VzaniT, Sludies in EaHy Hadilli IJkralim, p. 305. 

174 THR HISTOKY OK THE tJL'R'ANk: y\,\y 

This manuscript, MskliatAbu az-Zubair bin 'Adi at-Kij/t, is well knovvn to 
be spurious (s*^»>> fc^-Ji) even though the text of the hadilhs themselves is 
not. Mosi of the material in this fraudulent copy actualiy consists of authentic 
hadilhs narrated by Anas bin Malik, a renowned Companion, But the trans- 
mission chain is defecttve: Bishr b. Husain, a narrator, claims to have learned 
ihcse hadilhs from az-Zubair b. 'Adi, wlio in lurn was among Anas b. Malik s 
pupiJs. Bishr b. Hussain's reputation is so infamous that the muhaddithin have 
branded him as a 'liar' and demonstratcd that this narrativc chain never 
occurred, beinga pure fabrication on Bishr's part. The page shown contains 
ten hadilhs; al-Bukharl and/or Muslim have cited the core text of six as 
genuine, with three others cited by Ahmad b. Hanbal. But the forged isnad, 
though appended to authentic sayings of the Prophet, invalidates the book's 
value as a reference. 21 

Discovering a narrator's duplicity, through examination of historical data 
and the scrutiny of books and the kinds of papers and inks used, is often too 
difficult; in most cases one is fbrced to reiy on the narrator's contemporaries 
to uncover his morality and characteristics. Given that enmity or favour may 
sometimes influence the recommendation of peers, scholarly deliberations 
have resuited in guidelines which allow the researcher to proceed with due 
caution. 22 

Most narrators' mistakes cannot be ascribed to malice, but naturally these 
errors must be catalogued in the course of assessing the narrator. Testing 
accuracy entails extensive cross-checking; to understand the full scope of 
this we turn to the celebrated scholar Ibn Ma'in (d. 233 A.H.), in a case 
likely belonging to the second century. He went in to see 'Afian, a pupil 
of the great scholar Hammad b. Salama (d. 169 A.H.), to read the works 
of Hammad back to him. Surprised that a scholar of Ibn Ma'ln's calibre 
was approaching him, 'Afian inquired whether he had read these books 
to any other of Hammad's students; he replied, "I have read these to seven- 
teen of his students before coming to you." 'Afian exclaimed, "By Allah, 
I am not going to read them to you." Unfazed, Ibn Ma'in answered that 
by spending a few dirhams he could travel to Basra and read there to 
other students of Hammad. True to his word Ibn Ma'in soon found himseif 
amid the busy streets of Basra, and went to Musa b. Isma'il (another of 
Hammad's pupils). Musa asked him, "Have you not read these books to 
anyone else?" 2:t He answered, 'i have read them completely to seventeen 

21 For furth'er dctails sce al-A'zaml, Sludies in Early Hadilh Literatur*, pp. 305, 309-3 10. 

22 AJ-Yamani, ai-Tantul, pp. 52-59. 

23 One may wonder why these two pupils asked Ibn Ma'in the same question. The 
reason was simple: for Ibn Ma'in, a giant scholar of the 2nd and 3rd centuries, to 
approach a lower grade of teachers for reading a book was ccrtainly cause for aston- 


of Hammad's students and you are the eighteenth." Musa wondered 
what he intended to do with all these readings and he replied, "Hammad 
b. Salama committed errors and his students compounded a few more to 
his. So I wan t to distinguish between Hammad's mistakes and those of his 
students. If I find all of Hammad's pupils committing a mistake unanimously, 
then the source of the mistake is Hammad. If I find the majority saying 
one thing, and a lone student saying another, then that student is responsible 
for that particular error. In this way I can distinguish between his mistakes 
and those of his students." 24 

Following this protocol enabled Ibn Ma'In to grade the various students 
and determine their indhidual competence. Such was the fundamental basis 
for assessing haditk narrators and placing them into categories. Ibn Ma'in 
did not invent this method nor was he the first to apply it, but as far as I know 
he was the first to express it clearh: In fact this scheme was in usage from the 
time of Caliph Abu Bakr. and though there was a difference in the quantity 
of documents cross-refereneed, the quality of these effbrts remained. 25 


The pairing of 'adi and sound knowledge with a person earned htm the 
general title of 'trustworthy' (**)■ Among the muhaddithin some graded more 
specifically b}' using these traits to establish twelve categories: the highest 
being imam (»UJ : ieader) and the lowest kadhdhab {«-/'J^: habitual liar). This 
emphasis on the ranking of narrators necessitated access to the biographies 
of the transmitters involved, and to accommodate this a new science evolved, 
al-Jarh wa at-Ta'dil (Ji-^.> ^A s )- oflcring a massive biographical library 
which ran into thousands of volumes. 2 " 

U. The L'nbroken Chain 

As the narrator's trustworthiness is the first prerequisite for accepting a 
report, so the presence of an unbroken chain is the second. This chain is 
the isnad. Establishing the value of any isndd first involvcs a study of the 
participating transmitters' biographies {in our previous example, persons 
A, B, and C); once they pass the checks on morality and sound knowledge we 
are ready to judge the isnad itseif. We must confirm that the individuals 

24 Ibn HibbSn, MajriUtin, \ii:l la. 

25 Al-A'zamT, Hadith Melhodology, pp. 52-53. 

26 H3jl Khalifa, Kashf a^unSa, ii: 1095-1 108. 



learned the statement from one another: if Cdid not learn directly from 
B, or if B never came into contact with A, then thc chain is clearly defective. 
If we do discovcr an unbrokcn chain howcvcr, our analysis is not yct complctc. 

iii. Supporting or Negating Evidence 

The final step is a comprehensive cross-examination of other isnads. Suppose 
• we have another pair of trustworthy scholars, £and F, who also transmit 
from^l, such that we have the chain A-E-F. If they convey a statement about 
A which matches that of A-B-C then this further strengthens our casc, called 
mutaba'a (***i^*). But what if thc two arc'not congruous? If E and /*'are of an 
even higher calibre than B and C, this weakcns the lattcr's report; in this 
case the /I-ZJ-Ctransmission is labelled shadh ( jLa; aberrant and weak). Thc 
presence of a third or fourth chain complementing/l-£'-/ r 's version hclps 
solidify the argument against A-B-C. If scholars £and Fare of the same 
calibre as B and C however, then A will be cited as mudlarib (w,k^«: 
perplexed). Should ^-5-Cstate something which contradicts A-E-Fbut is in 
line with hundreds of other reports (from sources other than /1), then A-E-Fs 
account is discarded. 

i». A Test Case with a Misleading Isnad 

Very odd stories are occasionally conceived. Lacking a strong knowledgc 
of chain criticism, numerous scholars (and in rare instances even famous 
muhadditkin) bring forward a false report and expend much energy in its 
defence or refutation. For example adh-Dhahabl quotes from al-A'mash, 
"I tam/(ou~) Anas b. Malik [an eminent Companion] reciting *^V Oj 
%» <-iyJ\) U» } Jtil ^» JJS. When told, 'O Anas, it is fyij,' he replied, 'f y' and 
^j-»! are the same.'" Adh-Dhahabl claims the chain to be authentic, 2 'and 
Abdus-Sabur Shahin, attempting to somehow validate this incident, attributes 
Anas' response to tlie seven ahtuf. m Yct according to the pioneers of hadith 
criticism al-A'mash never learned anything from Anas, as cvidenced by 
his following remark: 

Anas b. Malik would pass by mc cvcry morning and cvcning. I uscd to icll 
myself, i will ncvcr stoop to leaming from you Anas, for after serving the 
Prophet in his lifetime you approached al-Hajjaj for an appointmetu, till 
hc agreed to appoint you.' Now I feel disgraccd for 1 find myself transmitting 
information not even through him, but througli his students. 2 " 

27 Adh-Dhahabl, Tabagal al-Ourrff, i:85. 

28 'Abdus-Sabur Shahin, Tarikh al-Our'a», p. 83. 

29 See adh-Dhahabl, Tabagal al-Qurra\ i:84. 


Had he overheard a single comment from Ajnas he would have relayed 
it to others on his authority and not have pitied himself so, But thorough 
inspection of his biography has lead al-Mizzi and others to affirm that even 
though he saw him regularly, al-A'mash never gained a kernet of knowledge 
from him, 3 * 1 leaving us to conclude that the episode is either an outright fab- 
rication or the error of one of al-A'mash's pupils. 31 To authenticate this or 
any incident, and arrive at an educated verdict, requires strict observance of 
isnad criticism. 

5. The First General ions of Sckolars 

Before advancing any further, perhaps it is best to defirie the generational 
terms which were (and stili are) used by Muslim scholars. 

• The first generation, having accompanied the Prophet and known 
him personally; are of course 'Companions', In the Sunn! school of 
thought all Companions are considered 'adl( J ^ ^u-ali } because Allah 
praised them without exception, vouching for thcir character in the 
Qur'an repeatedly. 

• The second generation, learning from the Companions, are called 
tabiin (j*fc) or 'Successors'. Generally they belong to the first cetitury 
of Hijra and up to the first quarter of the second century, and their 
transmissions are accepted provided they are found 'tntstworthy'. 
No further checking is required since they are relaying statements 
from the Companions. 

• The third generation, atba" at-tabi'in (Cv<^ ^') or 'Succeedtng Suc- 
cessors', extends mostly to the first hal f of the second century A.H. 
Unless the narrations of a third generation transmitter are verifiable 
through other sources, they will be labelled gharlb (-^.j*: strange). 

• Rcgardless of his repute, the statements of a fourth generation 
transmitter are rejected unless they are verifiable through independent 
mcans. Some of the people in this category have transmitted up to 
200,000 hadlths, with barely two or three in their collections (if not 

30 Al-Mizzi, Tahdlnb at- Kamal, xii:76-92. 

31 This report can also be refuted logically. K' true, the statemem must have taken 
place bctween 61 A.H. (birth of al-A'mash) and 93 A.H. (eleath of Anas b. Malik). Let 
us arbitrarily assume 75 A.H., with al-A'mash an adolescent of fourteen. Distribuling 
his Mushaf in 25 A.H., 'Uthman gave stringent orders for the elimination of all earlier 
copies; no authenticated report has ever shown the Companions contradieting the 
'Uthmani Mushaf. For Anas b. Malik, a memberof the Mushaf committee, to make 
such a casual remark about such a weighty topic, at a time when the Muslim worid 
had been united under a singie text for fifty years, is untenable. 


less) lacking support through othcr isnads. Ultimaicly a narralor 

from this generation is consiclcred weak if many of his haditks 

cannot be indepeadently confirmed. 32 

Though recorded ia the Prophet's lifetime it was not until a generation 

iater, during the second half of the first century, that haditks were categorised 

by subject into booklets. I n the wake of these the second century saw works 

of an encyclopaedic nature, including the MuivaUa' of Malik, Mmvatla' of 

Shaibanf , /U&tr of Abu Yusuf,Jtf?w'of Ibn Wahb,and Kitabof Ibn MajishGn. 

The third century finally heralded the arrival of voluminous tomes such 

as the Sahih, of al-Bukhan and Musnad of Ibn Hanbai. The generational 

outline above gives a rough idea on the valuation of isnads and illustrates 

the tremendous difficulty (and unlikelihood) of someone fabricating a hadith 

which then goes undetected by the meticulous seholars who penned these 

encyclopaedic works. 

6. Pmerving Booksfrom Adulleration: A Uniaue System 

To preserve their integrity from the glosses and adulteralions of future 
seholars, a unique method was applicd to these works which is still unparal- 
leled in literary history. Based on the same concept as the transmission of 
haditii, it entailed that any seholar relaying a collection of haditks had to be 
in direct contaet with the person he was transmitting from, since he was 
essentially bearing witness about him in wrilten form. To use a book without 
bearing it from the auihor (or converscly, reading'a copy to the author) 
made the culprit guilty of giving false evidence. 

Bearing in mind the law of witness, the following methods were recognised 
for obtaining knowlcdgc of hadith; cach bore its own rank, some requiring 
more extensive contaet than others and consequently receiving a superior 

a) Sama'ii^y^). In this a teacher reads to his students, and it includes 
the following sub-features: oral recitation, reading of texts, questions 
and answers, and dietation. 

b) 'Ard(j»/-). Here the students read to the teacher. 

c) Munawala (^j 1 ^). To hand someone the text, aUowing him to transmit 
that material without the involvement of any reading. 

d) Kiiaba (V^). A form of correspondence: the teacher senda hadiliu 
in written form to other seholars. 

e) Wasiyya ( v* ))■ Entrusting someone with a book of hadith, which can 
then be transmitted on the original owner's autliority. 

32 See adh-nhahabl, al-Mwp;a, pp. 77-78. 


During the first three centuries the first and second methods were most 
common, followed by munau-ala, kilaba, and finally wasiyya, Later periods 
wimessed the creation of three additional practises: 
J) [jaza ( • ji»r! ). Transmitting a tiadith or book on the authority of a scholar 
who grams permission expressly for this, without actually reading 
the book. 
g) J'ldm {^y^-l)- To inform someone about a particuiar book and its 
contents. (Most scholars did not recognise this as a valid basis for 
transmitting hadiths.) 
h) Wijada (•*•*> ). This pertains to the discovery of tests (for example, old 
manuscripts) without having read them to the author or obtained 
consent for their transmisskm. In using this method it is essential 
to state clearly that the book vvas found, and to list its contents. 
Each method enjoyed its own terminology, which served to disclose the 
mode of transmission to future scholars. The contents of kaditk books were 
to some degree shaped by this approach, as the transmitter s name became 
part of the text and any defects perceived in his character naturally affected 
the documetit's integrity.^Ji.tst as each hadith integrated its own chain of nar- 
rators leading back to the Prophet or a Companion, so each book possessed 
its own chain of transmitters ieading back to the author who originally 
compiled the work. This chain was mentioned either on the title page, at 
the start of the book, in both places, or perhaps as an amendment to each 
hadith. Consider the example in Figure 1 2.3. 34 
The first few lines read: v ' 

«Ji. y} S~.J-.-U* ^±~ f^.}\ j^.^1 -03» p-. 

V-* y. -~*s j* _-U' ^ o* ** 1 o* ^r'-J^ J'- r** 1 •*** ^-^ J 1 * 

. . . -U-I j, ijlj j <*l Jl ij'jj j> .u-J JJi 

I hss translates to: 

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Mcrciful. Muhammad 
bin Bahr Abu Talha read to us, stating that 'Abdui-Mun'im bin Idris 
read to us on the authority of his father, from AbO llySs, who narrated 
from Wahb bin Munabbih, who said, "When the delegations began 
approaching the Prophet to declare their embrace of Islam, As'ad bin 
Zurira went to his father Zurara bin As'ad ..." 

33 For examplc sec Siukkal -ibu az-^jibair b. 'Adi al-hufi. the spurious copy mentioned 
itip. 174. 

** R.G. Khoury, Wahb b. Mmiabbih, Otto Harrasscwitz - Wiesbaden, 1972, Band 1 , 
Teil 2, plate PBI. The date 227 a. H. actually appears in Plate GDI. 

35 ibi4,p. 118. 


Tiiii hiktokv 01 'ini-: i^i h'ank; i i.xi 


"S- H 


/•"(^«r /2..?; Firslpagf of Mag/iazi Rasulullah by J I <////> />. Muimbbih (44- 114 

A.H.) cofried in 227 AJI J 84 1 <;.!■:. Source: A'. G'. KJioury, Wahb b. Munabbili. 

/'/«& PBl. Rf.piwkd willi tfie publislier's kind ' permission. 

Here the transmitter's names have become a permanent addendurh to 
the very beginning of the text. This common pattern can be discerned in 
the Sahih of al-Bukharl and Sunan of an-NasS'l for example, but it is by 
no means the only one. Certain works go further by inserting the original 
author's name at the start of every (uidilii in the book, such as the Musaimof 
of 'Abdur-Razzaq, Alusaimafof Ibn Abl Shaiba, and (for the most part) 
Sunan of at-Tirmidhl. A third variety in fact eites the l>ook's entire chain 
of transmitters at the beginning of each hadilh. Obviously vvith the passing 
of gcnerations the inciusion of this entire chain vvill become prohibitivcly 



long. so occasionally only the author and thc first few transmitters are 
inserted. Let us examine the Muwatta' of Malik bin Anas according to the 
recension of Suwaid bin Sa'ld al-Hadathanl (d. 240 A.H.). The chain of 

transmission given at the Muu-atta"s beginning is: (1) Thabit bin Bundar 
al-Baqqal, from (2) l Umar bin Ibrahim az-Zuhrl, from (3) Muhammad 
bin Gharieb, from (4) Ahmad bin Muhammad al-Washsha', from (5) Suwaid 
bin Sa'ld al-Hadathani, from (6) Malik bin Anas, the original author. 
At the start of each hadlth lies an abbreviated version of this chain: 

Muhammad read to us that Ahmad related on the authority of Suwaid, 
who narrated from Malik ,.. 36 . 

Following this comes the isnadproptT for that hadftk, culmtnating in the 
core text of the hadlth itself. Though this pattern is not uniformly observed 
across the wide array of manuscripts, the transmitters' names ahvays gain 
inclusion into the text. 

i. Conditions for Utilising a Book 

To teach or utilise a text, among the sternest recjuirements vvas for the scholar 
to stick exclusively to the copy vvhich bore his name in the readingcertificate. 
This certillcate was his license: proof that he had attended the relevant 
lectures in which his teacher relayed that manuscript. 37 W'hile free to make 

a duplicate of his teacher's book or to employ the book of a higher authority 
along the same chain, the use of all other copies was strictly forbidden. 
Suppose A Ls the original author, and his book is sprcad through the following 

Figure J 2.4: A, tlie original author has L, H and G as students. 

*> See any page in Muwatta' of Malik, recension of Suwaid. 
* 7 For details refcr to next page. 


Despite all these copies originating from A, we find that A/ is not entitled 
to use the copy of Ror jV, or of //or L Instead he must limit himself to the 
copies of G, M, orA; attempting to break out of this restriction wiil bring 
disgrace. Additionally, after scribing a copy for himself hc must go through 
the original text and make correclions as ncccssaiy, and should he dccide 
to use it without the benefit of a lhorough revision then he must make this 
elear, or else risk soiling his natne. 

u. Glosses: the Addition of External Material 

Students possessing their own copies would occasionally add material to 
the fixed text to clarify an obseure word, provide fresh evidence not quoted 
by the original author, or some such thing. Because these extra items were 
marked off by a completely diflferent isnad, or at the least the inserter's name, 
tliere was no danger of spoiling the text. A very elear instance appears in one 
of my works, 1 " 1 wherein the copyist added tvvo lines before compleling the 
sentence. Other examples include the insertion of two lines into al-Muhabbar 
{ j^»ii) by Abu Sa'ld, 39 and extra material supplied by al-Firabr! in the Sahi!} 
of al-Bukharl;" 1 in both cases the new isnad is readily discernible. 

Running contrary to the example of first and second century Christian 
seribes who altered their texts if they believed themselves inspired, 41 or to 
Jewish seribes who inserted changes in the interest of doctrine, 12 interpol- 
alions were never toleraled in the Islamic framevvork; evciy instance of 
personal commcntary rcquired the student's signature and perhaps even 
a fresh isnad. Adherence to these rules insured that such glosses did not 
invalidate the text since the source of the new material was always made 

m. Establishing Authorship 

When confronted with a manuseript, the fingers that seribed it now long 
deceased, how do we establish that the contents really do belong to the 
supposed author? Just as an elaborate system of cheeks must validate each 
haditk, so the same roughly applies to every compilation of hadilhs. Figurc 
12.5 shows a manuscript's title page; a summarised translation reads: 


•*" AUA'zamT, Sludies in Early Hadiih Literature, appendix 4. 
S» Ibu Habib, al-Miikabbar, p. 122. 

'"' AMiukhilrf, Sahih, i:4€)7; ii: 107. r<>r<>tli<'rt'xaiHplcx sec Alni l)awf«l, Simuii, hnilidi 
no. 2386; Muslim, $ahih, Salai:63, p. 304. 

41 RW. Comfort, Early Manwcripts & Modern Translalions of lhej\"ew Teslamml, p. 6. 
** Rrnst Wilrlhwein, The Texl of the O/d Tes/ameni, 2nd F.diliou, VV.B. Eerdmans 
l'ublishing Company, Grand Riipkls, Miclligan, 1995, p. 17. 




rz*t>, W' 




•*-.— -V •*■'>■*> 








f . ■■■?cr , r 5 ^^#'t. ;v *■ ■ ■ 

/c ■ " "I 



Figure 12.5: Kitab al-Ashiba. Contains a reading notefmm 332 a. H. /943 C.E. 

Source: lAbrary oj Asad, Damascus. 


Kitab al-Ashriba [Book regarding various di luks] by Abu 'Abdullah Ahmad 
bin Muhammad bin Hanbal, read to Abti al-Qasmi 'Abdullah bin Muhammad 
bin 'Abdul-'AziZ al-Baghawi ibn bini Ahmad bin ManT. 

[Sccoiid Pagc:] 

lu ihe Nainc of Allah, Mosi Gracious, Mosi Merciful. Bcginniiig of iiitab 

al-Ashriba. Abu <il-Qa$im 'Abdullah b'm Muhammad bin 'Abdul-'A~T~ al-lhghmtf 

ibu bini Ahmad bin ManT til-lSnghdadi ivad I o lis in Knghdad, suling ( 

Abu 'Abdullah Ahmad bin l taubat icatl lo I lini in the yc;ir 'l'l\\ f ioni his 


The normal procedure for cstablishing this work's authcnticity is: 

a. To examine the originai author's biograpliy (Ahmad bin Hanbal), 
much of which will undoubtcdly stem from his contemporaries. The 
focus of our search is two-fold: lirst, to aseertain whether Ibn Hanbal 
ever aulhored a book Ullccl Kilah al-Ashriba; second, to oiganisc a lisi 
of all his pupils and clctciminc if Abu al-Qaxim ibn bini Ahmad 
bin Mani' was ever among them. Assuming thai both cnquirics are 
positive we proceed to: 

b. Here we analyse the biography of Abu al-Qasim ibn bini Ahmad 
bin Manf, again with a two-fold purpose. First to establish whether 
he is trustworthy, and thereafter to compile a list of all his pupils. 

c. And so on, examining the biographies of every link in the chain. 
Should our research conclude that Ahmad bin Hanbal elid inclccd aulhor 

a work by this title, that every element in ihe chain is trustworthy, and that 
the chain is unbroken, only then can we aulhoritatiVely confirm the book's 
authorship. Nalurally some manuseripts are not so elear cut and oceasion 
much perplexity; such a topic is beyond the scope of this basic introduetion, 
however, and for those interested I advise looking into any work on the 
seience of Mustalak al-Hadtt/i (*i-«JJ-» ^Ua-a*).* 1 

7. Certificales of Reading 

As diseussed previously, seholars faced slringenl limitations on which books 
they could use in the form of a 'licence' or reading cenificate. In promul- 
gating hadilh books a regular attendance record was always kept, wrilten 
either by the teacher or one of the famous seholars present, supplying exact 
details of attendance such as who had listened to the entire book, who joined 

■*-* Such as Ibii Salah, at-Alui/addimaJi ' Uliim al- Hadilh; ar-Ramahurmu/J, al-Muhadilll 
al-Fasil', Ibn Hajar, Nuziial an-A'a£ar Shar/i .h'uklibal al-FikrJt Alustalalu Ahl al-Alhar. 



in partially and vvhich portions tlicy missed, the womcn and cliildrcn (and 
e\en the maids and servants) vvho panicipated, and the dates and sites of 
thcse readings. Any attendec yonnger than ftve was listed with his age and 
[])p designation hadar{^-\ attended); if oldcr he was mentioned as a regular 
student. A signature at the book's conclusion terminated this reading cer- 
lilicate, indicating that no furthcr entries could be made therein. 4 * To the 
mtihaddilhtn this certiiicate was tibaq ( JU#), an eocclusive licence for those 
listed within to rcad, teach, copy, or quote from that book. 

In this manuscript dated 276 a.h. (Figure 12.6) the reading certificate 
contains sundry information; note that the attendees have uou become a 
pertnanent addendum to the very titte of the work. 


^WlkJiiJjAf. \ t 



J'lgure Jami' of /bn W'abb, za'th a reading certificate from 276 A.H. 
Source: The Egyptian Library, Cairo. 

14 TIhti' wcre various mcans i»f issiiiciu Oicse certificatcs, which iimsisied mostly 
"I t'sM'iuLtl and necessary hitbniiaiioii. though the sequence of iulbrmaiion was up 
to the wriu-r's discretion. 





From thc ccrtificatc wc can cxuaci the following: 


Abn Ishaq Ibrahim bin Masa 

Title of book: 

Kitab as-Saml 


'Ali bin Yahya 

'Abdullah bin Yusuf 

Muhammad bin Ismail 

Sulaiman bin al-Hasan 

Nasr, clienl of 'Abdullah... 

Asbat bin Ja'far 

Lakhm, clicnt of Salih 

Hasan bin Miskin bin Shu'ba 


Ahmad bin Ishaq 

Hatim bin Ya'qub 

' Abdul-' Azlz bin Muhammad 

'Ali bin Maslama 

Muhammad bin Mutayyib 

al-Hasan bin Muhammad bin Salih 




Rabi* al-Awwal 276 A.H. 


"I copied these two volumes from the book of 

Abu Ishaq Ibrahim bin Musa." 45 

Original author: 

['Abdullah b. Wahb] 

The book begins: 

This is Kitab as-Samt, part of Jami' of Jbn Wahb. In the Name of Allah, 
Most Gracious, Most Merciful. [The chapter about] speaking when a 
mattcr should not be spoken of, and whcn tt docs no good [to speak]. 
Abu Ishaq informed us that Harmala bin Yahya stated that 'Abdullah 
bin Wahb told him... 46 

i. The Importance of Reading Notes 

Meant to safeguard haditk compilations from distortion, these certificates 
now provide the contemporary scholar with a sea of valuable information. 
One can trace a book's proliferation through these notes far better than by 
relying solely on bibliographical data, as I will show in the next few pages. 

45 J. David-Weill (ed.), Le Qjami' 4'Ibn Walib, Imprimerie De L'Instiiut Frawjais 
D'Archeologie Orientale, Cairo, 1939, p. 77. 1 have arranged the information in this 
fashion for illitsiralivc purjwscs. 

4li ibid, p. 40. 



Rev. Mingana published a worfc on the diffusion of the Sahih of al-Bukhari, 
while James Robson worked on the transmissions of the Sahih of Muslim, 
Sunan of Abu Dawud, Sunan of at-Tirmidhl, Sunan of an-Nasa'i, and Sunan 
of Ibn Maja. Though both works are riddled with grievous misconceptions 
I will cast aside my comments for the time being, and suffice by copying 
Robson's diagram for the transmission of Sunan Ibn Maja.*'' 


Ab8 Zsi'i 

'AM d-l*p( 
il-Bii" " " 

•AbdJBh b. AV~i 
b. Q«4imi 



Figure 12.7: Robson's diagram for the transmission of Ibn Maja 

A more promising diagram comes from Ishaq Khan in ai-Usul as-Sitla wa 
Ruwatuha,** though it still fails to convey the Ml scope of transmission. Here 
is the diagram relating to Ibn Qudama only (the original is in Arabic): 

47 J. Robson, "The Transmission of Ibn Maga's Sunan", Journal of Semilic Sludies, 
i'd. 3 (1958), p|>. 129-141. Only the ponion relating to Ibn Qudama is shovvn. 

48 M.A. Thesis, College of Education, King Saud University, Riyad, 1405 (1985), 
P- 323. 


llm Maja 
AbO Talha 



AbO Xur'a 

!l>n QixJ5ma 

I I I 

AbO IskaVj AI-FarrS Adlt-DhataM 




AI-BluiRdSdl Al-Harrital Al- M Mi 


Ibn Hajar 

Figure 12.8: KJian's diagram for ifie iransmmion of Ibn Maja. 
T/iis om pcrlaining to Ibn Qudama only. 

Taken together, these two charts insinuate tliat less than a dozen students 
transmittcd Sunan Ibn Maja through the renoivned Ibn Qudama. Such a 

miserly perception can be dispelled, I beiicve, if we examine the manuscript 
of at-Taimuria, No. 522 at tlic Egyptian Public Library, Cairo. 


Ibn Qudama al-MaqdisI (d. 620 A.H.), author of one of the most celebrated 
eneyelopaedie books on Islamic jurisprudence, al-Afugfmi (prinied in fourteen 
volumes), served as the seribe of this valuable manuscript. Dividing u into 
sevenicen parts, he placed blank sheets after each part to provide sufficient 
space for reading certificates, 49 vvhich he copied with abridgement at eaeh 
part's conclusion while noting that the full certificate was written by the 
hand of anotlicr famous seholar, Ibn Tario, {d. 592 A.H.). The certificates for 
the sixth part, for example, show that this portion was read by 'Abdullah 
bin Ahmad bin Ahmad bin Ahmad bin al-Khashshab, to Sheikh Abu Zur'a 
Tabir bin Muhammad bin Tahir al-Macjdisi. Those in attendance included 

49 Gcnerally all such divisions were left co the seribe 's diseretion: he could drop the 
divisions altogelher, or devise his own seheme. 



'Abdullah bin 'Ali bin M, M. al-Farra, Dulaf, Abu Huraira, Ibn Qiidama, 
'Abdul-GhanI, Ahmad bin Tariq, etc. Tuesday, 19 Rabf al- Akhir, 561 A.H. 

By copving this, even with abridgement, Ibn Qudama al-Maqdisi estab- 
lishes two points: 

J. That he has the authorky to use this manuscript for the purposes 

of teaching and quotation, since he learned it through the proper 


2. That this copy of Ibn Maja is a duplicate of the same original that was 

read to his teacher, so he is not violating any ruies of transmission. 

BelowJ have provided a summary of the notes for the si\th part; as the 

manuseript's binding is no longer in fair condition the pages have been 

shuffled and out of order for some time, meaning that a few pages may 

be misplaced or missing. I verified that no sheets from other parts entered 

this portion, since pages often memior» which part they belong to in their 

reading notes. 30 


\a>ne of 

JV<ime of 

Scribe ll'riiwg 

Dak of Reading 


Jwte No. 



the Certijicatf 



Describes Ibn 

Qudama*s authoritv to use Sunan Ibn Maja 





15 ShawvvSl, 


bin Ahmad 

bin "Abdul- 

bin 'Abdul- 

60+ A.H. 










Tuesday; 12 


Qud5ma al- 

bin Ahmad 

Raniadan, 569 . 






Sundav Rabf- 


QSdir ar- 

bin Qasim 

bin Awoub 

II. 596 


bin al- 












YCisuf bin 

Ibrahim b'm 

Thursday, 8 



Khalll ad- 




client of 
'Abd5n bin 
Nasr al- 
Bazzaz ad- 


30 The origina! reading notes coiuain niuch detail, pertaining to the method of 
transmission used (e.g ija~a or sama), and in some cases whcther only a portion of ihe 
text was read. Here I have sufliced vviih a simple outline of al! the transmission 




' Namtof 


Scribe Writing 
Ihe Certifaate 

Dale o/ Rtadmg 




Mahfuz bin 

Mahfuz bin 


Sunday; 12 






Yahya bin 


Saiih bin 
Abu Bakr 





(a) Ibn ash-Shihna — Anjab — Abu Zur'a 

(b) Sittil Fuqaha' — Anjab, Ibn Qabitl, and al-Hashimi — 
Abu Zur'a 

(c) Ibn as-Sa'igh — ar-Rikabl — as-Suharwardi — Abu 

(d) Ibn al-Muhandis — Ba'fabakkJ — Ibn al-Ustadh — 
Muwafiaq — Abu Zur'a 

(e) Ibn al-Muhandis — Ba'labakki — Ibn Qudama — Abu 

An-Nawwas — Ibn al-Baghdadi — Ibn Qudama — Abu 

(g) An-Nawwas — Ibn al-Baghdadi — ar-Rahawi — Abu 

Reader and Saibt: 

Ibn as-Sairafi 

10-1 1-725 a.h. 




(a) 'Abdur-Rahman bin Muhammad bin Qudama 

(b) Ibrahim bin 'Abdullah 

(c) Muhammad bin 'Abdur-Rahim 

(d) Ahmad bin Ahmad bin 'Ubaidullah 

'Abdul-Hafiz al-Maqdisf 

•17-10-659 A.H. 





— as- 

— Abu 

Ibrahim bin 
Yahya bin 

Ibrahim bin 
Yahya bin 

Tuesday, f 1-5- 





'Ali bin 

Mas'od bin 
Nafis al- 

'Ali bin 

(Washed away) 





Jumu of 

.Vame of 


Scribe Writing 
Ihe Cerlifkale 

Dale of Reading 





(a) Al-Balisi — Um 'Abdullah 

(b) Al-Harrani — Ibn 'Alw&n — 'Abdul-Latif al-Baghdadl 

(c) Ibrahim bin Buhair — Ibn 'Alwan 

(d) Ibn Sultan a!-Maqdisi - Zainab bint Kamal — Abu Zur'a 
(t) Khalid Sanqar — ai-Baghdadi — Abu Zur'a 

(fi Ibn Sultan al-Maqdisi — an-Nabulsi — Ibn Qudama 

and 'Abdul-Latif - Abu Zur'a 
Reader and Scribe: 

Muhammad al-QaisI ad-DimashqI 

Tuesday, 2-1 1-798 A.H. 



Rahman bin 
— Ibn 




Wednesday, 15- 




Fuqaha' — 
ibn al- 
Qabitl — 

Abu Zur'a 

' Abdul-' Aziz 






Wednesday, 19- 


From this table we can extract that a total of 1 1 5 students studied part 
six of this text directly from Ibti QudSma; those learning it through his 
students iri ttirn numbcr roughly 450. Of the many manuseripts of Sunan 
Ibn Maja 'm circulation at the time, there were most likely others which 
listed Ibti 0_udama's name in their reading certificates - manuseripts which 
have yet to be discovered or which have been lost to us forever. The reams 
of information bristling within this one certificate demonstrate that all 
transmission diagrams drawn till now, whether for Ibn Maja or any other 
vvork, are so meagre that we cannot even call them rudimentary without 
embarrassing ourselves. 

8. Impact of Hadith Methodology on Other Branches 

So powerful was this methodology, so well did it prove itself, that it quickly 
spilled beyond the confines of hadith literature to include aimost all literary 
and seholariy works: 

♦ For examples in tafsir, see the Tafsirs of 'Abdur-Razzaq {d. 2 1 1 a.h.) 
and Sufyan ath-Thauri (d. 161 A.H.). 


♦ For history, see the Tarikh of Khailfa bin Khayyat (d. 240 A. H.). 

♦ For la%v, scc thc Muwalla' of Imam Malik (d. 1 79 A.H.). 

♦ For Iiterature and folklore, see al-Bayan wa at-Tabyln by al-Jahiz 
(i 50-255 A.H.), and al-Ag/mmby al-Asfahanl (d. 356 A.H.). This laitcr 
occuptes twenty volumes and relates ihe stories of composers, poets, 
and singers (both men and vvomcn), along with a hearty sprinkling 
of their vulgar anecdotes. Intcrestingly one finds that even these 
bawdy tales have been cited through proper isnad chamicls, and 
that if the author appropriates material from a book for which he 
does not have an apt licence he states clearly, "I copied this from 
the book of so and so". 

9. Isnad and the Transmission of Ihe Our'an 

Ali these studies raise an essential question. When this disciplined mctho- 
dology served as an everyday workhorse for transmitting informatbn, 
everything from the sunna to the Iove lives of singers, why vvas it not also 
applied to the Our'an? 

Answering this entails that we recall the naiure of this Holy Book. As 
it is the Word of Allah and a vital element of all prayers, its usage is far 
more ubiqukous tlian the sunna. The need to use transmission chains and 
reading certilicates for cveryone setting out to learn the Qur'an was thcre- 
fore superscdcd. Individuals wishing lo learn ll le ari of prof essional recilation, 
of keeping in practice the sounds and maklidii) "(jr j** 1 : inflections) used by 
famous reciters, did possess certilicates and unbroken chains leading back 
to the Prophet. Abu al-'Ala' al-Hamadhani al-'Attar (488-569 a.h./ 1095- 
1 1 73 c.E.), a wcll-known scholar, compiled a biograpliy of reciters entitled 
al-lnlisdrji Ma'rifat Qurra' al-Mudun wa al-Amsar. This uventy-volume work 
has long perished unfortunately. Bui we can still rcap a few grains of 
information from what others have written about it: for example, that tlie 
author's full list of his teachers and their teachers, on a path converging 
back to the Prophet, covered pages 7-I62. 51 All these vvere professional 
reciters. Any attempt to extend this sketch and include non-professionals 
would be a hopeless task indeed. Even the speed with which the Our'an 
spread is diTticuIt to fathom. To appease his curiosity about the number 
of pupils studying the Book in his Damascus circle, Abu ad-Darda' {d. ca. 
35 A.H./655 C.E.) requested Muslim bin Mishkam to count for him: the 
final lally excceded 1 600. Attcnding Abu ad-Darda"s circle in successive 


51 Ai-Hamadhani, Ghtiyat at-lkhtisar, i:7-l62. 



turns afterj%> prayer they would listen to his recitation then emulate him. 
reciting amongst themselves for practice, 52 

Conceding the involvement of two different methodologies in the spread 
of the Qur'an versus the siintta, there are nevertheless a few points common 
to the transmission of both: 

/ . Knowkdge requires direcl contact, and acdusae re/iance on boohs is prohibited. 
Simply ovvning a Mushaf can never displace the necessity of learning 
how to recite from a knowledgeable instructor. 

2. A stringent Standard of morality is demanded of all teachers. I f an individuaTs 
peers knovv him to be of questionable habits, no one will seek his 

3. Skekhing transmission dkgrams using bibliographical data alone does not provide 
afuli view of the subject's inimensily, To outline the Qur'an's diffusion. 
as we did with the sLxth part of one manuscript of Sunan Ibn Maja. 
would require a registry of every Muslim who has walked this earth 
from the dawn of Islam to our present day. 

10. Conclusion 

Recourse to a recognised instructor, inspectton of biographies to uncover 
personal character, legitimaey as established through reading certificates. 
and other facets of this methodology untted to form a powerful barrier 
against distortion in the books of sunna. But with the exception of professional 
reciters, the one field not subjected to vigorous isnads was the transmission 
of the Qur an, for in this sole area was textual corruption impossible. That 
the exact same words eehoed from every mosquc. school, house and bazaar 
throughout all corners of the Muslim nation was a greater safeguard against 
corruption than anything any human system could have promised. 


Adh-DhahabT, Sen, ii:346. 




Chapter Thirteen 


As mentioned earlier, Arthur Jeffery examined 1 70 volumes to compile a 
list of variant readings which take up roughly 300 pages in printed form, 
covering the so-called personal Mushafs of nearly thirty scholars. Of this 
total he reserves 88 pages for the variations allegedly coming from Ibn 
Mas'ud's Mushaf alone, with another 65 pages for Ubayy's Mushaf, dividing 
the remainder (140 pages) between the other twenty-eight. The dispropor- 
tionately high variance rate attributed to Ibn Mas'ud makes his Mushaf 
worthy of closer inspection; some of the claims raised by Jeffery against 
it are: 
* ♦ That it differs from the 'UthmSni Mushaf in its sura arrangement, 

• And in its text, 

♦ And that it omits three suras. 

He levies all these charges even though no one, including his sources, 
has ever vvitnessed a 'Mushaf with all these alleged variances. In truth 
none of his references even mentions a 'Mushaf of Ibn Mas'ud'; instead 
they use the word qara'a (>/: read), in the context of "Ibn Mas'ud recited 
such-and-such verse in this way". A cursory glance at his sources yields 
two objections straightaway. First, because they never state that Ibn Mas'ud 
was reading from a written copy we can just as easily assume that he was 
overheard recif ing from memory, and how can we confidently deduce that 
the erroneous readings were not due to a memory slip? Second (and this 
is a point I made earlier), the vast majoruy of Jeffery's references contain 
no isnad whatsoever, making them inadmissible because they offer nothing 
but empty gossip. 

Comparing a Mushaf attributed to any scholar with 'Uthman's Mushaf 
's utterly meaningless unless we can show that both are of equal status, 
proving the authenticity of the former to the same degree of certainty that 
we have for the latter. The contents of a Mushaf, just like a hadith or gira'at, 
can be reported in such a way that scholars find it: 

1 . Authentic with absolute certainty, or 

2. Doubtful, or 

3. Absolutely false (whether due to inadvertent or deliberate errors). 


Supposc that maiiy well-known students of Ibn Mas'ud (such as al- 
Aswad, Masruq, ash-ShaibanT, Abu Wa'il, al-Hamadanl, 'Alqama, Zirr, 
and others) report a statcmcnt unanimously; in this case their attribution 
of this statement lo Ibn Mas'ud is considered valid and admissible. If the 
ovcrwhelming majority arc agreed while one or two wcll-known students 
report to the contrary, then ihe minority account is termed 'doubtful'. 
And should this minority group contain only weak or unknown pupils, 
contradieting the consensus of those who arc rcnowncd, ihcn (his falls 
itito the third category of absolute falsehood. 

In the course of coilating manuseripts 'equal status' becomes a vital 
concept. If we uncover a document penned in the original author's hand, 
then the scholarly value of duplisate copies belonging to his most famous 
students (let alone a mysterious student) plummcts to nil, To do otherwisc 
and confer equal value to both the original and the duplicate, is completely 
unseientific. 1 With this in mind let us approach Jefl'ery's allegations. 

I . First Point: The Arrangemenl of Ibn Mas'ud's Mushaf 

Whilc none of Ibn Mas'ud's pcers mentions a Mushaf of his bearing a 
different sura arrangement, quite a few of them seem 10 have sprung up 
after his death. An-Nadim quotes al-Fadl bin Shadhan, "I found the sura 
arrangement in Ibn Mas'ud's Mushaf as follows: al-Baqara, an-X>sa', Ali- 
'Immti .... \i.e. no al-Faliha).' y2 l'bllowing this with his own tommentary, an- 
Nadlm says ihat hc has personully seen numcious Mushafs aseribed to 
Ibn Mas'ud but has been unabk to find any two in agreement willi eacli 
other, addjng that he has also come aeross one copied during the second 
century of Hijra which includcs Sura al-FStiha. But because al-Fadl bin 
Shadhan is reekoned a leading authority on this subject, an-Nadlm decides 
to quote him rather tiian accentuate his own observations. 1 ' An-Nadlm 's 
commentary proves that those who claim a diserepaney in Ibn Mas'ud's 
Mushaf cannot, with even the minutest degree of certainfy, state what the 
actual arrangement was. 

A significant number of famous students siudied SharTa (Islamic law 
and jurisprudence) under Ibn Mas'ud and transmitted the Qur'an from 
him. Regarding hb Mushaf we find two conflicting reports: in one the 
arrangement of suras is different from ours, while in the other it is exactly 

1 'l'his has been cliscusse<l earlier; sw \>p. Bl-tt'2. 
- An-Nadim, al-Ftliritt, p. 29. 
■< UiM, |>. 2<). 



fckntical. The former report fails to arrive at any collective agreement 
about the sequence of suras however, and is greatly overshadowed by the 
sureness of the latter. Clearly this more concrete version is the one that 
varrants our consideration. AJ-QurazI recounts seeing the Mushafs used 
bv Ibn Mas'ud, Ubayy, and Zaid b. Thabit, and finding among them no 
difTerences. 4 

By consensus, professional reciters follovv the vocai inflections of any of 
the seven most distinguished reciters ('',-^') : 'Uthm5n, 'Ali, Zaid b. Thabit, 
Ubayy, Abu Musa al-Ash'arl, Abu ad-Darda', and Ibn Mas'ud. Transmis- 
sion chains for these recitations continue unbroken back to the Prophet, 
and the sura arrangement in each is identical to that of the existing Qur an. 
\\'e must also recall that, even if we give any credence to the aberrant 
accounts, differences in sura arrangement do not affect the contents of 
the Qur'an in any way. 5 

Having memorised most of the Book directly from the Prophet, Ibn 
Mas'ud was critical and furious for being excluded from the committee 
fchich prepared the 'Uthmani Mushaf, resorting to some harsh remarks 
which the Companions fbund distasteful. Afterwards, his anger spent, he 
may have expressed remorse for his hasty comments and rearranged the 
suras in his Mushaf to reflect the 'Uthmani sequence. This might be the 
origin of both reports, that his sequence was simiiar and dissimilar to 
'Uthman's, though the truth is best known to Allah. The divergent nature 
of the many 'Mushafs of Ibn Mas'tkT that materialised after his death, 
with no two in agreement, shows that the wholesale ascriptioti of these 
to him is erroneous, and the scholars who did so neglected to examine 
their sources well. Sadly the less scrupulous among antique dealers found 
it profitable, for the weight of a few silver pieces, to add fake Mushafs of 
Ibn Mas'ud or Ubayy to their wares. 6 

2. Second Poinl: The Text Differedjrom Our Mushaf 

I mentioned above the need for some kind of certitude about Ibn Mas'ud's 
Mushaf. \Vhile researching variant readings, Abu Hayyan an-NahawI 
noticed that most of the reports were channeled through Shiite sources; 
Sunnl scholars oti the other hand stated that Ibn Mas'ud's readings were 
in Hne with the rest of the Muslim umma? What has trickled through to us 

4 A. Jeffery (ed.), Mugaddimatdn, p. 47. 

5 See this work pp. 72-73. 

6 See A. Jeffery (ed.), Muqaddimatan, pp. 47-48. 

' AbO HayySn an-NahawI, Tafsir Bahr ai-Muhit, i; 161. 

198 TH t: H IS'IORV OF THE (£U R' A NIC T EX' l' ' 

via isoiated sources cannot supersedc what is known wilh ceriai nty. In 
pages 57-73 of Kitab al-Masahif (edited by Jcficry), under the chapler of 
"Mushaf of 'AbdullSh b. Mas'ud," we find a lengihy collection of variants 
all stemming from a)-A ( mash (d. 148 A.H.). Not only does ai-A'mash fail 
to furnish any references for ihis - hardly surprising given his proelivitv 
for tadSs (^-t: concealing the source of information) - he is moreover 
accused of Shiite tendencies. 8 Many other examp!es lend further support 
to Abu Hayyan's inference of a Shiite connection. In his book Jeffery 
attributes the following reading to Ubayy and Iba Mas'ud (there is no 

4*b«^>i j* ili\ ^Lik-sl ^ijl iJjij "J* fji (>}UJl 4-U j—JLf J10L j_jil_Jl_> 

'•*. jjjju- v r* ^ j'j^ 1 'j j' jt c/& ^j JU)l r* ^j' 1 -r*- * <^* 4'^ ,*+•** j 

And the foremost to believe in the Prophet, peace be upon him, are 
'Ali and his deseendents whom Allah has chosen from among his 
Companions, appointing them viceroys over all others. They arc the 
winners who shall inlierit the Gardens, residing theretn forever. 

Whilc in the Qur'an it is: Oy.j& JJbJj» j^llJi J^il—J'j {"Bui the foremost 
will be [those who in iife werej the foremost (infaiih and good deedsf'). 16 Such a 
glowing tribute to 'All's deseendants undoubtediy served the Shiite cause." 

Embarking on any research requires a solid footing, whereas here we 
discover oilrselves drowning in a sea of hearsay that earries almost no 
transmission chains and that fails to provide any coherent view of what 
'Ibn Mas'ud's Mushaf' might have been. Under the circumstancesjefieiy's 
approach and findings, we can see, are fundamentally flawed. 

8 For details, see al-MizzI, Tahdhlb, xi:87-92. 

9 A. Jeflery, Materials, p. 97. 
'O Qur'an 56:10-11. 

1 ' Till very recently, it had been the tendeney of Shiite theologians to cast doubt 
on the Qur'an, for the simple reason that the Qur'an was first collected by Abu Bakr, 
then copied and distribuced by 'Uthman and not 'Ali. The strange thing is that 'Ali 
himsclf stuek to the same Mushaf, i.e. Mushaf of 'Uthman and never broiighi fon h 
a new edition. Recently, however, a new and healthier trend has heen cinerging. A 
few years ago in a confcrencc in Tchran, Iran, Shiite authorities announced that they 
did not have any Mushaf besides that of 'Uthman, and that u is pure and free of any 
corruptioii. As a inatter of faet, onc does not find a Mushaf nriiili'd in Iran or maini' 
seripts of ihc Qur'ili» in Najaf, Qtnn, Mashhad . . . tlc. which dillcr froni the commo» 
Mushaf found in any other part of the world. 


3. Third Poin t: Three Suras were Omitted 

The first and last two suras {Sura al-Fatiha, al-Falaq and an-JVas) were, 

according to some accounts, absent from the Mushaf of Ibn Mas'Od. 12 
The whole case seems dubious. Jeffery begins his book with the alleged 
variants from Sura al-Fatiha: t**;' instead of Ua*(, and j* instead of j>ii\. ]i 
Elsewhere he argues that this sura vvas never present, so then where 
exactly did he get his variants? The reader may recall an-Nadlm's earlier 
comment, that he happened upon a Mushaf attributed to Ibn Mas'Od 
vvhich contained Sura al-Fatiha. Bear in mind aiso that al-Fatiha is un- 
questionably the most recited sura in the Qur'an, an integral part of 
every rak'a (<*^j) wlthin each prayer. In the audible prayers alone it echoes 
from mosques six times a day and eight times on Friday. Any claims of a 
variant recitation for al-Fatiha cannot be taken seriously, based on pure 
logic and the sheer repetition of this sura on every Muslim ear since the 
time of the Prophet. 14 

Anyone with a penchant for copying certain suras and not others is 
free to do so; even the scribbling of extra information in the margins is 
permitted, so long as it is kept separate from the holy text. Such occur- 
rences cannot be taken as an argument against the Our'an's integrity. 
That the 'Uthmani Mushaf contains the unadulterated Words of Allah 
as sectioned into ] J 4 surahs, is the firm belief of the Muslim umma\ 
anyone eschewing this view is an outcast. Had Ibn Mas'ud denied these 
three suras their rightful status then his fate would have been no different. 

Al-Baqillanl arrives at a comprehensive and highly convincing argument 
against these reports. He observes that anyone denying a particular sura 
as part of the Qur'an is either an apostate or a.jasiq (j-l*: wicked deviant), 
and so one of the two must apply to Ibn Mas'Od if the accounts are indeed 
true. In several hadiths the Prophet praised him and lauded his piety how- 
ever, which is inconceivable had he harboured such deviance. Ibn Mas'Od's 
peers were aiso under obligation, if they knew anything sacrilegious about 

12 As-SuyOti, al-Itqan, i:220-2l. These are sOras No. t, 1 13 and 1 14 respectively. 

13 A. Jeffery, Materials, p. 25. 

14 Today neariy half a million people participate in the tarfiuik [p* j) prayers in Maltkah 
during the month of Rarnadan {and in some nights, especialiy the 27th, in excess of 
one million). [See the Saudi daily, Ar-RiySd, 1 jan. 2000] Only the best among the hujja^ 
(who have completely memorised the Qur'3n) are chosen to lead this massive con- 
gregadon. With modem technology we can instantaneously watch these proceedings, 
and we fmd that if even the best hafiz commits an error, the people behind correct him 
immedtately. A congregation will never allow an error to pass uncorrected, irrespective 
of the imam's reputation or greamess. This gives us a measure of the community's 
sensitivicy towards the Book of Allah. 

200 TH K H INTO RY O l' TH K <jUR * A N K : I l A T 

his beliefs, to expose him as a deviani or apostate because failure to do so 
would Icad to tlieir owii censure. But liis coiucmporaries praiscd his schol- 
arship unanimously without a single dissenting voice. In al-B5qiIlanI's 
miiid this can only mean one of two possibtlilics: ciihcr Ibn Mas'ud never 
denicd the rightful status of any sura, or ihai his scholarly pcers and all 
who knew him are guilty of covcring up his blasphemy and dcserve im- 
mcdialc-denuncialion en masse. 1 -' 

i. Analysis of the Contents of Ibn Mas'ud's Mushaf 

Reports concerning the omission of these suras can be listed as follows; 
the transmission chain prccedes cach narration. 

* 'Asim - Zirr (one of Ibn Mas'ud's studenis) - Ibn Mas'ud: a narration 
claiming that he did not write two suras (Nos. 1 13 and 1 14) in his 
Mushaf.» 1 

* Al-A'mash - Abu Ishaq - 'Abdur-Rahman b. Yazld: Ibn Mas'ud 
erased the mu'awwadJwlazn (c&iji&S: Suras U 3 and 1 14) from his 
Masahif (plural) and said that they were not part of the Qur'an. 17 

* Ibn 'Uyayna - 'Abdah and 'Asim - Zirr: "I told Ubayy, 'Your 
brother erases Suras 1 13 and i 14 from the Mushaf, to vvhich he 
did not object." Asked whether the reference \vas to Ibn Mas'ud, 
Ibn 'Uyayna replied in the affirmative and added that the two suras 
wcre not in his Mushaf because he believed them to bc invocations 
of divine protectlon, used by the Prophet on his grandsons al-Hasan 
and al-Husain. Ibn Mas'ud remained adamant of his opinion, while 
others were sure about them and kept tiiem in the Qur'5n. 18 

So in the second and third report Ibn Mas'ud was deleting suras that 
had somehow found their way into his Mushaf; why then had he penned 
them down in the first place? h makes no sense. If we suppose that the 
Mushaf had been scribed for him and initially contained the two concluding 
suras, then they must necessarily have bcen an integral part of the Mushaf 
which was then in circulatibn. Had he any doubis about these two suras, 
it was Ibn Mas'ud's duty to verify this issue with the scholars of Madinah 
and elsewhere. In ont fatwa {<Jj&: legislative ruling) he declared that a man 
marrying a woman but divorcing her prior to any consummaiion was free 
to then wed her modier. Visiting Madinah and discussing the matter iurther, 

15 Al-Baqillanl, al-InlifSr, pp. 190-191. 

16 ibn Hanbal, Masnad, v: 129, hadttli nos. 21224-25. 

17 ibid, v: 1 29- 1 30, hadith no. 21226. 
'8 ibid, v: 1 30, hadith no. 2 1 227. 


he discovered that he had erred and rescinded the fatica; his first errand 
upon retumingto Kufa was to \isit the person who had solicited his opinion 
and tell him of his mistake. Such was his attitude in the academic sphere, 
and how much raore pressingare issues touching the Qur'an. Ali reasonable 
evidence indicates diat the whole episode is spurious, and indeed early scholars 
such as an-Nawawi and Ibn Hazm denounced these reports as lies fathered 
uponlbnMas'ad. 11 ' 

Ibn Hajar, among the muhaddithm's leading scholars, objects to this con- 
clusion. Since Ibn Hanbal. Bazzar, at-Tabarani and others quoted this 
incident with authentic transmission chains, hejeasons that (he allegations 
cannot be discarded; to do otherwise is to negate a genuine hadith vvithout 
any relevant support. Artempting to harmonise between the disparate reports, 
Ibn Hajar resorted to Ibn as-Sabhagh's interpretation: at the time of his 
first remarks Ibn Mas'fid was hesitant about their status as suras, but as 
they were uncjuestionably part of the Quran in the umma's belief, his doubts 
dissipated and he came to believe likewise. 20 

This is the staunchest argument I have come across in support of these 
accusations. To dissect this further I will rely on the muhaddithm's metho- 
dology to shovv the error of Ibn Hajar's stance. 

U. Ibn Mas'fld's Beliefs 

Earlier I asserted that al-Fatiha, thcseven most oft-repeatcd vcrses in mosques 
and houses since the Prophet's time, could nol by any stretch of logk have 
been denied by Ibn Mas'fid. That leaves us with suras 1 13 and 1 14. In the 
ihird account, vve find that Ubayy, on hearing that he had omitted the 
concluding suras, made no attempt to rebuff him. W'hat does this impiy? 
Either that he agreed with him, or disagreed but hcld back clue to in- 
difierence. Given that Ubayy's Mushaf included both suias we cannot 
afiirm the former; similarly vve must reject the latter because apathy is 
tantamount to saying that people are free to choose whichever morsels of 
the Qur'an they find appealing. Noone can champion this attitude and still 
remain Muslim. Therefore the report of Ubayy's silcnce is plainly false. 21 
Next we turn to Ibn as-Sabbagh's harmonisation. Many Companions 
such as Fatima, 'A'isha, Abu Huraira, Ibn 'Abbas and Ibn Mas'fid, report 

19 As-Suyuti, al-Itgg». i:221. 

20 Sec as-SuyQrt, al-llqan, i:22l-'2'2. In translating this Burton cnnmittcd dishon- 
esty. Compare ihe original tcxt wiih the latier's rcndering in The Colkdion of the Qur'an, 
Cnmbridgc Univ. Press. 1977, pp. 223-24. 

"' See the paragraph about al-Baqiltant, pp. 199-200. 



that the Prophet used to recite the Qur'an with Archangel Jibril annualiy 
during Ramadan, doing so twice in the year of his death. In that final 
year Ibn Mas'ud was a participant. He also twice recited the Book to the 
Prophet, who extolled him with the words laqad ahsanta (.- ; .■ - ! -U) : 'you 
have done well'). Based on this incident Ibn 'Abbas considers Ibn Mas'od's 
readings to be definitive. 22 Such accolades demonstrate that the Qur'an 
was etched in his memory with full certainty; his pupils, disdnguished 
names such as 'Akjama, al-Aswad, MasrQq, as-Sulaml, Abu Wa'il, ash- 
Shaibanl, al-Hamadani, and Zirr, transmitted the Qur'an from him in its 
1 14 sura entirety. One of Zirr's students, 'Asim, is alone in reporting this 
abnormal account even though he himself taught the whole Book on Ibn 
Mas'ud s authority. 23 

One of Ibn'Hajar's works, a small treatise on kadith named J^fuzhat al- 
Na^ar, tells us that if a trustworthy narrator (say a grade B scholar) goes 
against another narrator of higher standing (a grade A scholar), or that 
if we have more schotars (all of the same grade) supporting one version 
of the story over the other, then the lower narration is labelled shadh ( JU: 
abnormal and weak). In the above report what we have is a lone statement 
swimming against a tidal wave of thousands, so this must be treated as 
batil ( Jtb : false). 24 This is based on the mukaddithin's own methodology, and 
though Ibn Hajar cites the rale 'm his book, it secms that he had a mental 
lapse and forgot about it in this instance, as even the greatest minds are 
prone to do. One may argue that building a case against a shadh or batil 
report requires the presence of two conflicting statements, while what we 
have here is a single account regarding the erasure of suras 1 1 3 and 1 1 4, 
with nothing to the contrary. The reason is simple: in a normal situation 
only abnormality gets reported. For example, that the blood gushing in our 
veins is red is something we take for granted, but blue blood (the horseshoe 
crab) is out of the ordinary and so gains a measure of publicity. By the same 
token, we cannot reproach Ibn Mas'ud's students for failing to tell us whether 
their tcachcr believed in 1 1 4 suras, since that is the norm. Only those who 
bclicve in less, or more, becomc ncws. 

The comments I have made about Ibn Mas'ud's Mushaf can be similariy 
repeated for Ubayy bin Ka'b, or anyone else for that matter. 


22 For deiails scc Ibn Hanbal, Musnad, hadlth nos. 2494, 3001, 3012, 3422, 3425, 
3469, 3539 and 3845. Of partkular note arc 3001 and 3422. 

23 As-Suyutl, al-lUjSn, i:22 L 

2+ Ibn Hajar, Mzhal al-M^ar, pp. 36-37. 



4. Wken Can Any Writing be Accepted as Pari of the Our'an? 

Hammad b. Satama reported that Ubayy's Mushaf contained nvo extra 
s'uras, called al-Hafad and al-Khala'P This report is completely spurious 
because of a major defect in the chain, as there is an unaccounted-for gap 
of at Jeast nvo to three generations between Ubayy's death (d. ca. 30 A. H.) 

and Hamrnad's (d. 167 A.H.) scholarly activity. Besides this, \ve must remember 
that a note vvritten in a book does not make it pan of the book. But Iet us 
accept that a few extra lines were scribbled inside Ubayy's Mushaf for argu- 
ment's sake. VVould these lines ascend to the position of Our'an? Certainly 
not. The completed 'Uthmani Mushaf, disseminated with instructors who 
taught after the manner of relevant authorities, forms the basis for establishing 
whether any given text is Qur'an - not the unsubstantiated squtggles of 
an illegitimate manuscript. 

i. Principles for Determining Whether a Verse Belongs to the Qur'an 

The following three principles must be fulfilled before the manner of re- 
citation for any verse can be accepted as Qur'an: 

* The aira'at must not be narrated from a single authority, but through 
a multitude (enough in fact to eliminate the danger of mistakes seep- 
ing through), going back to the Prophet and thereby advocating 
recitational authenticity and certainty. 

♦ The text of the recitation must conform to what is found in the 
'Uthmani Mushaf. 

• The pronunciation must agree with proper Arabic grammar. 

AU authoritattve works on qira > at (oUy), such as Ibn Mtijahid's Kitab as- 
Sab'aji ' al-Qira'at, generally mcntion a lone reciter from evcry ccntrc of Islamic 
activity followed by two or three of his students. Such sparse listings appear 
to contradict the very first principle: how can citingonc reciter and twopupils 
from Basra, for example, prove that this gira'at was transmitted through a 
multitude? In clarifying this issue the reader is asked to review "Certificates 
of Reading" from the previous chapter. 2 '' Prof. Robson and Ishaq Khan, 
supplying the transmission lineage for Sunan Ibn Maja through Ibn Qudama, 
arrive at a mere handful of names, whereas by tracing the reading certificates 
w*> find over four hundred and ftfty pupils. And that is only in one manu- 
seript; additional copies from the same chain tnight yield a far greater 

~ 3 Ibn Dutais, Fada'il al-Qur'an, p. 157. 
36 Sec this work pp. 184-91. 



tally. Similarly the ciling of two or threc studcnts is purcly rcpresentative 

and is meant to conserve the author's time and parchment, leaving it up 
to the interested scholar to scour the reading notes for full details. 

A fundamental diderence lics bctwcen ihc Qiir'an and the Prophct's 
surma in the case of transmission ihrough a single attthority. A lone scholar 
memorising a hadJlh may, when teaching from memory, find ii necessary 
to substilute a synonym il" the exact word eseapes his niiiid. Wiih no one 
else transmitting this haditli, his inaccuracy may pass undetected. Contrast 
this with the Qur an. During the three audible daily prayers, Friday prayers, 
tarawVt, and 'U prayers, the Imam recites loudly with the baeking of his entire 
congregation: if noone in the congregation objects then his recitation has 
everyone's consent - hundreds, thousands, or perhaps even hundreds of 
thousands of worshipers. But if objections are voiced in the course of prayer 
and the Imam insists on a reading contradietory to 'Uthman's Mushaf, hc 
will be removed immediateiy from his post. No inaccuracies in qira'at can 
pass undetected, and whatever crosses the. boundaries of the acceptable will 
bc rootcd out. This well-defined boundary is one of (hc great saleguards 
of the Ojjr'an. 27 

Let us evaluate any fragment that is aseribed as Qur'an in light of the 
above principles. Clearly the first condidon is missing, as die fragment cannot 
profTer any details about the seholars who transmitted il. On to the second 
condidon: does it agree with the 'Uthmani Mushaf? The presence of even 
the siightest disagreement in the consonantal skeleton causes the fragment 
to lose all credibility; it may be considered anything excepl part of the Qur'an. 
Such has been the unanimous ruling of Muslims for the past fourteen 

Speaking of skeletons, it is wonh recalling that vowels (and especially 
alifin the middle of a word) frccjiicnlly display orthographic abnormalities 
depending on the seribe's diseretion - see pp. 131-5 and also die recenily pub- 
lished faesimile of Quranic fragments in France. 2 " In the latter we find '^U 

27 Once ugain I refer to al-Masjid al-Haram in Makkali vvherc, on Friday ihc 16th 
and agam on Friday the 23id of Ramadan (1 420 A.H.), an estimated 1 .6 million worshipers 
congregated for Friday prayers. I persoually attended the former, and watehed the 
latter on lelcvision. Such a massive congregation includcs countless thousands ol Musliiiis 
wlio have memorised the entire Qur'an from every imaginablc tumor, along with 
scvcral other thousands who follow ihc Imani by looking into a Mushaf during ihc 
tarawih prayers. Any crror or lapse of memory, and ihe Imam is immcdiately and 
audibly correeted by ihe numerous hundreds in his vicinity. Convcrscly, by reinaining 
sileni the entire congregation aflirms its acceptance of (hc Iraam's qtrS'at, so that his 
recitation is symbolically backed by the strength of one miUioti worshipers. How emphatic 
the response would be if the Imam failed to observe a oira'al acceptable to the niasses. 

-"* F. Deroche and S.N, Noseda, Sourees de la transmission manusoite du lexle Coianique, Les 
manustrits de style higazi. Volume 1. 1 s mtmuseril arabe 'i'2H(aS dt la Biblintheaiie nalkmale de Frartre. 
1 998. 


written as'^Si, Conceivabiy tlie same couid be true of the Yemeni fragments. 
Difierences on this level pose no confusion; we must treat the issue exactly 
the same as color vs. colour, and center vs. centre, since orthographic diver- 
gence is an integral thread of every language.^ But if any serap of parehment 
falls into our inquisitive hands and, despite our best allowance for ortho- 
oraphic differences, fails to slip comfortably into the 'Uthmani skeleton, then 
we musi cast it out as distorted and void. Of course if there is a consonantaJ 
charaeter missing d«e to scribal error then it will be accepted as a piece 
of the Ojjr'an vvith such. For example, J*-y& is seribed (mistakenly) as 
ju»-_}3i , where the seribe dropped the letter -i . w 

B. Examples of Scholars Punished for Yiolating the Above Principles 

• Ibn Shanbudh (d. 328 A.H./939 C.E.), one of the greatest scholars 
of his day in the field of qira'at. decided to ignore the 'Uthmani 
text in reciting the Ojur'an. Because the reading was proven correct 
through diflerent transmission channels and conformed vvith the 
rules of Arabic granimar, he claimed that it retained validity even 
if it differed from 'Uthman's Mushaf. Put to trial, he was asked to 
repent and finally received ten lashes as punishment." 

An-Nadim quotes Ibn Shanbfidh's letter of confession: n 

^) jUj* ^Jo^j^a ^iJliw ^}f- 'j*' ^~^ JJ» '-r'Ji' J'. ->■«»■' J>. •*-*£ J »* Iw ^5-J 
Iki- Si'i ji J JL «i t «M/ J* % «JL'1 J___. w>U-^.i ji'I i fii\ } 4 U* **£* ( Jli*. 
ifj$ jJ- ( y> jUi*- Jl>uu JIS* ij utfjt <* <^J> 'J*r aU 1 J,\) (aU* <* « i<-JC *i« tfj 

In these lines Ibn Shanbudh accepts his guilt for violating the 
one Mushaf vvhich enjoys the baeking of the entire umma, and seeks 
Allah 's pardon. 

• Another sehoiar, Ibn Miqsam {d. 354 A.H./965 C.K.), was asked to 
repent in the presence o\ fuqaha' i«i$ii: professois of Islamic lavv) 
and guna' for his theory on recitation. This theory held that any 
reading, if in line vvith the Mushaf of 'Uthman and the rules of 

29 To this we can append certain diderences in the pronunciation of the consonantal 
ie.\t; just as "bridge' is 'brij', so in the Qur*an we eye -**• y but read mimba'd, and 
this in no way constituies a deviation from 'Uthman's Mushaf. 

F. Deroche and S.N. N'oseda, Sources de la transmission manuseriti du texle Coraniqu(, Les 
"tanusaits de sttle higazi, Vohmu- 1, p. 126. 

31 Al-Jazari, Tabaaat at-Qurra\ ii:53-55. 

32 An-Nadim, at-Fihrist, p. 35. 


language, was valid, obviating the need to search the proper channels 
of qii,a > at and vcrify the correct diacritical marks associatcd wiih 
cvcry verse.' 3 

One scholar sought to ignore the second principle, and the other the first. 

Rev. Mingana felt sorry for these two scholars. 3 * At least we can take comfort 

in knowing that they were shown greater mercy than Wilham Tyndale (c. 

1494-1536) who, for his English translation of the Bible (on which the King 

James Version is based), was sentenced to burn at the stake. 35 

5. Conclusion 

Judeo-Christian scholars have long cast their eyes towards the Qur'an in 
search of variances, but so securely has Allah preserved His Book that their 
vast efforts and resources have yielded them littie more than fatigue. In 
the 20th century the University of Munich set up an Institute of Qur'anic 
Research. Its halis lay host to over forty thousand copies of the Ojir'an, 
spanning different centuries and countries, rnostly as photos of originals, 
while its staff busied themselves with the collation of cveiy word from every 
copy in a relentless excavation for variants. 

Shortly beforc the Second Worid War, a preliminary and tcntalive report 
was publishcd that therc arc of course copying mislakcs in the manu- 
scripts o!" the Qur'an, but no variants. Diiring lltc war, American ljombs 
fell on this Institute, and all was destroyed, director„personnel, library 
and all... But this much is proved - that there are no variants in the 
Qur'an in copies dating from the first to the present eentury/" 

Jeflcry acknowledgcs thb faet bleakly, lamenting that, "Practically ali the 
early Codices and fragments that have so far been carefully examincd, show 
the same type of tcxt, such variants as oecur !>cing almost alwuys oxplainable 
as scribal errors". 37 Bcrgstrasscr also reached a similar conclusion. "'Jclfcry 


3:1 (fcHii:124. 

34 Mingana, Transmisskm, pp. 231-2. 

35 "Williatn Tyndale", Enycbpedk Brilannka (Mkropaedia), 1 5th edition, 1974, x:2 1 8. 

36 M. Hamidullah, "The Practicability of Islam in This World", tslatnk Culturai Forum, 
Tokyo, Japan, April 1977, p. 15; see also A. Jcflrey, Materials, Preface, p. 1. 

3 ' Arthur Jcflcry's review of "The Rise of the North Arabic Script and It's Kur'anic 
Developmcnt by Nabia Abbott", TheMoslem Worid, vol. 30(1940), p. 191.Tocomprchend 
his statemem read this work pp. 1 55-6. 

38 Tlinodoi" Noldckc, Oe.whkhtf its Qoram, Ocorj» Olms Vcrbg, Hildcshcini - New 
York, mKpp. 60-96. 


insists though that this text type "would seem not to have been fixed till 
the third Islamic century 39 . . . [and so] it is curious that no examples of any 
other type of text have survived among all the fragments that have so far 
been examined". w The answer to his quandary U so obvious that he seems 
not to see the forest for all the trees. Plainly put, there never vvere any other 
text types. 

Instead of languishing at the feet of the Orientalist camp, which shifts 
its footing regularly to suit the aim of the moment, Muslims must tread 
firmly along the path pioneered by tbe eariy mukaddilhm. What would the 
outcome be if we applied our criteria to the study of the Bible?Just ponder 
this next example,'which illustrates the brittleness of their foundations. In 
the Dictionary of the Bible, under the article 'Jesus Christ', we read: "The 
only witnesses of the burial [of Christ] were two women..." Then under 
'The Resurrection': "There are many difficulties connected with this subject, 
and the narratives, which are disappointingly meager, also contain certain 
irreconcilable discrepancies; but thehistorian wkofollows the most exacting rule 
imposed by his scientific discipline finds the testimony sufficient to assitre ikefacts," 41 

We can only assume that these 'facts' lie above others and do not require 
any corroboration. What if we employ our methodology? What can we say 
about the story of Christ's burial? First, who are the authors of the gospel 
accounts? They are all anonymous, which immediately invalidates the story. 
Second, who conveycd the statement of these two women to the author? 
Unknown. Third, what transmission details do we have? None. The entire 
story may as wcll bc iabricated. 

The search for Quranic variances continues unabated, and Brill is con- 
tributing through the production of the Encyclopaedia of the Qufan (in four 
volumes) wkhin a few years. Among its advisory board are such notables 
as M. Arkoun and Nasr Abu Zaid, declared heretics in Muslim countries 
and Islamic circles cverywhere, in addition tojewish and Christian scholars. 

I have already referred to Biblical scholarship repeatedly in passing, and 
to its overarching desire to inject the Qur'an with the same doubts and 
unruly conundrums thac suffuse the Old and New Testamen ts. Now I must 
take a more active approach and delve into the histories of the Scriptural 
texts themselves, and not solely for comparative purposes. Every scholar 
and critic is the product of a specific emironment, and Orientalists - whether 
Christian, Jewish or atheist - are hatched from a Judeo-Christian backdrop 

3 -' One must emphatically ask what proof there is that the Qur'an was fixed in the 
third Islamic century, whcn all the earliest first-century manwscrtpts of the Qur'an 
agree with one another! 

« ibid, p. 191. 

41 Dictionary of the Bible, p. 490. halics added. 



which necessarily filters their view on all matters Islamic. I c encourages 
them to forcibly transmute Islamic Studics into a foreign mould by using 
terminology that is primariJy employed for the Bible: Blachere for example 
uses the term 'vuigate' when referring to 'Uthman's Mushaf in his Iii/roducthn 
au Coran, andjcflery dcscribcs thc Quran as a Masorctic tcxt, a term gencrallv 
connected with the Hebrew OT. Stripping away all Qur'anic terminology, 
Wansbrough,speaks instead of Haggadic exegesis, Halakhic exegesis, and Deutungs- 
bedurfiigkat.* 7 Everyone also refers to the canonisation of the Qur'an, and the 
codices of Ibn Mas'fld. The vast majority of Muslims live in total ignorance 
of this jargon. While the hypotheses of Jeffery, Gokteihcr and others have 
been dealt with and dismissed, we have yet to fully gauge the motives behind 
such efforts. A sketeh of early Judeo-Christian history, couplcd with thc 
histories of the Old and New Testaments, will hopefully facilitate a more 
thorough comprehension of these seholars' mindset and lead to a detailed 
consideration of Western objectives regarding the Qur'an. 

42 J. Wansbrough, Qutank Studies: Sources and tnethods «f seripturat inkrpretalion, Oxford 
Univ. Press, 1977, Tablc of Contcnts. 


K ' 


The History of the Biblical Scriptures 

Chapter Folrteen 

Israel vvas in the thought of God before the creation of the Universe 
(Gen. R. 1 .4) that heaven and earth were only created through the merit 
of Israel. As the world could not exist without the winds, so is it im- 
possible for the world to exist without Israel.' 

In examining the Scriptures it is best to proceed chronologically, beginning 
with the religious and political history of Judaism. The traditionaljewish 
accounts may well come as a shock to some, riddled as they are with idol- 
atrousness, paganism and a frequent disregard for the Oneness of God. 
My main objective here is to show that the eady followers of Judaism were 
not favourably inclined towards Moses, or his message. Numerous tales 
illustrate the eady Jevvs' unfavourable opinions of their prophets and reveal 
mind-boggling conceptions of God, and after recounting some of these I' 
will move 011 to the history of the Kings of Israel and Judah and their 
idolatrous lives. This will provide the reader with a taste of the circumstances 
under which the Old Testament (OT) laboured for many centuries, and 
which ultimately decimated any hope of its faithful preservation. 2 

1 . Jewish History Prior to Eslablis/ung the Kingdom 
Birth of hhmael and Isaac, som of Abraham 

1 Now Sarai AbramV wife bore htm nochildren: and she had an hand- 
maid, an Egyptian, whose name was Hagar. 

1 Rcv. Dr. A. Cohen, Eceryman's Talmud, London, p. 61, quoted by S.A. Zia, A History 
of Jewish Crimes, Union Book Sial), Karachi, 1969, p. 53. 

2 The reader must take into account that the majority of historical incidents men- 
tioned in this chapter have either a direct bearing on the OT, or show how unfavourable 
the prevalent religious and moral practices were to the OT's intact survival. My purpose 
is not to provide a comprehensive history of the Israetites; the interested reader can 
easily find many references that are equipped with details of their military excursions 
and political allegiances etc. 

3 This is how the name appears in Genesis, with Abram' changing to Abraham' 
upon his conversation with God. 


2 And Sarai said unto Abram, Behold now, the Lord hath restrained 
mc from bcaring: I pray thcc, go in unto tny maki; it miiy bc that I 
may oblain children by hcr. And Abram hcai'kcucd 10 ihc voicc of 

3 And Sarai Abram 's wilc took H agar licr muid the Kgyptian, alur 
Abram had dwelt teri years in the land of Canaan, and gave her «o hcr 
husband Abram to be his wife. 

15 And Hagar bore Abram a son: and Abram callcd his son's namc, 
which Hagar bore, Ishmael. 4 

15 And God said unto Abraham, As for Sarai thy wife, thou shalt not 
call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall her namc be. 

16 And I will bless her, and give thee a son also of her: yea, I will bless 
her, and she shall be a mothcr of nations; kings of people shail bc of 

1 7 Thcn Abraham fell upon his facc, and laughed, and said in his hcart, 
Shall a child bc born unto him that is an hundrcd ycars old? and shall 
Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear? 

18 And Abraham said unto God, O that Ishmael might livc before thcc! 

19 And God satd, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son ihdccd; and thou 
shalt call his name Issac: and 1 will establish my covenant vvith him for 
an evcrlasting covenant, and with his secd after him. 5 

Issac suddenly becomes the legitimate (and only begotten) son of Abraham 
The first centuryjewish historian Josephus writes of, "Isaac, the legitimate 
son of Abraham", and shortly aftenvards declarcs, "Now Abraham greatly 
Ioved Isaac, as being his only begotten, and given to him at the border of 
old age, by the favor of God.'"> Is Josephus demoting Ishmael to the status 
of an illegitimate child, even though Genesis 1 6:3 proclaims that Sarah gave 
Hagar to her husband "to be his wife"? He declares Isaac as the only begotten 
despite having just diseussed Ishmael at length, for the previous thrcc pages, 
From Isaac's children onwards the OT deseribes increasing treachery 
amongst the very progenitors of God's chosen people, those whom He 
personally forged a covenant with. These stories of betrayal ai multiple 
lcvels, enshrined in the Scriptures, can only undermine the reader's con- 
fidence in these Biblicai figures and in how seriously they took God's 
direcdves to heart. 

4 hing James Itfsion, Genesis 16. 

* Genesis 1 7. For a diseusston on the corruption and intcrpolation present in Gen. 
1 7, rcfcr to this work pp. 256-6 1 . Unlcss otherwise meniioned all the biblicai C|uotalions 
arc from ihc hhig James fbrsion. 

« Josephus, Antig., Book 1, Ch. 13, No. I (222). 


Jacob deceives hisfatker 

After years of childlessness, Rebekah (Isaac's vvife) bore twin sons. Esau 
was born first from the womb and was cherished by his father, while she 
remained partial co Jacob. One day Esau returned from a hunting trip faint 
from hunger, and begged Jacob for some red lentil soup, which he refused 
co offer him until he had surrendered to him his rights as the firstborn. 7 
On a future occasion Rebekah and Jacob conspired together to trick Isaac 
throtigh an elaborate ruse involving fake hair: mistaking Jacob for Esau, 
Isaac biessed him instead of his elder brother by saying, "Let peoples serve 
you, and nations bow down to thee: be lord over thy brethren." 8 

Father-in-law cheats son-in-law 

With Esau threatening revenge because of the stolen blessing, Rebekah 
sent Jacob away to her brother Laban in Haran, that he might marry 
Laban's daughter. Accordingly he travelled to Haran and, enraptured by 
this daughter. the beautiful Rachel, 51 he eagerly sought to marry her but 
was first asked to work seven years for her father before his matrimonial 
dreams could be realised. Seven years later he did marry, but after spending 
the wedding night with his bride, enveloped in darkness, he was horrified 
to discover the next morning that his father-in-law had substituted for 
Rachel her plainer sister Leah. 

His marriage to Rachel took place a week later, but only after he had 
undertaken to work for Laban another seven years. When Jacob finally 
lefi, his entourage included Uvo wives, two concubines, eleven sons. and 
one daughter. 1 " In leaving Laban's house Rachel had stolen her father's 
household gods, so Laban, pursuing and catehing up with them, furiously 
searched the tents; but Rachel had quiekly concealed the gods in the 
saddiebag upon which she sat and his efibrts were in vain." And so this 
distinguished lineage, though already in custody of God's Covenant, 
prized their household gods most paiticularly. 

Jacob wiestta with God 

24 Afterwards, Jacob went back and spent the rest of the night alone. 

A mari came and fought with Jacob until just before daybreak. 

25 When the man saw that he could not «in, he struck Jacob on the 
hip and ihrew it out of joint. 

26They kept on wrestling until the man said, "Let go of me! It's almost 
daylight." "You can't go until you bless me," Jacob replied. 

7 Genesis 25:29-34. 

8 Genesis 27:1-29. 

9 Genesis 29:1-7. 

10 Genesis 31. 

11 Genesis 31:19-35. 


27 Thcn the «nan asked, "What is your name?" "Jacob," he answered. 

28 The man said, "Your name will no loiigcr bc Jacob. M>u liavc wresdcd 
wiih God and with men, and you have won. That's why vour name will 
be Israel." 12 

To someone from outside the Judeo-Christian tradition, the notion of 
a human physically taekling God into the daylight hottrs (and wianing) is 
inconceivable, if not profane. 

Jacob's Jamify 

Jacob had two wives, 

a, Ideali, who gavc birth to 

/. Kcubcn, 2. Simcun, 3. Lcvi, -/.Judul», 5. Issachar, and 6". Zebuhm 

b. Rachel, who gave birth to 
/. Joseph, and 2. Benjamin. 
He also had two concubines, 

a. Bilhah, Rachel's handmaid, who bore him 
1. Dan, and 2. Naphtali 

b. Zilpah, Leah's handmaid, who bore him 
1. Gad, and 2. Asher 

Thus 'Jacob had twclve sons." 1 -' 

The terriblc fainine which siruck du ring Jacob 's iwilight years was the 
impetus for his migration to Egypt; 14 his son Joseph had aseended to the 
post of Egypt's governor by then, and invited his parents and brothers to 
join him as the land still held grain. 15 "Sixty-six members of Jacob's family 
went to Egypt with him, not counting his daughters-in-law. Jacob's two 
grandsons who were born there made it a total of seventy members of Jacob's 
family in Egypt." 16 This includes all his children and grand-children from 
both wives and both concubines. 


Moses' grandfather Kohath had arrived in Egypt from Canaan with his 
grandfatherjacob," such that the only person in the lineage to be Egyptian- 
born was Moses' father, Amram.'*Though born there Moses left more 

12 Holy Bibit, Contanporary Englhh Version, American Bibit Sociely, New York, 1995, 
Genesis 32:24-28. In Hebrcw onc meaning of 'Israel' is "a nian who wrestles wiih God" 
(see the footnote for Genesis 32:28). Cited thereafter as CEV. 

11 Genesis 35:23-26. 

14 Genesis 41:53-57. 

15 Genesis 45. 

16 CEV, Genesis 46:26-27. 
I7 ' Genesis 46:8- 1 5. 

18 RefevtoExodus6:16-20. 


than forty years before his death, so that Jacob's descendants resided in 
Eg>P r *" or on 'y 2'5 years. 19 Living there as freemen, Jacob's iamily enjoyed 
immense prosperity and their numbers surged rapidly, but this stirred 

great jealousy uithin the Egyptian populace and eventually goaded them 
into enslaving the Israelites; in the eighty years preceding the exodus, all 
their male newborns were put to death by order of the pharaoh. 30 

Saved by God's mercy in his infancy, Moses was forced to flee in aduh- 
hood for killing an Egyptian, and because the king and the milkary were 
envious of his success in the Ethiopian campaign. Escaping to Midian, 
he married and settied there till he was commissioned by God to be His 
aposde, to return to his birthplace and deliver the Israelites from bondage. 21 

Lord 'advises' Israelites to steal their neigkbour's jewek 

Havingentreated Pharaoh to release the Israelites wtah no ostensible success, 
Moses and Aaron then stood witness to a kaleidoscope of plagues which 
ravaged Egypt. "And the Lord said unto Moses, yet will I bring one plague 
more upon Pharaoh, and upon Egypt. Afterwards he will let you go hence. . . 
Speak now in the ears of the people, and let every man borrow of his 
neighbor, and every woman of her neighbor, jewels of silver, and jewels 
of gold."-" 

I n this die Israelites obeyed Moses, seeking from their Egyptian neigh- 
bours trinkets of gold, silver, and other valuables besides. God softened 
the hearts of the Egyprians such that they gave them whatever the Israelites 
desircd. "In this way they carried away the wealth of the Egyptians when 
they left Egypt."- 3 The implication of this passage, in which God legitimises 
the taking of Egyptian gold and silver by the Israelites, is that all such 
valuables are the rightful property of His chosen people alone. I n faet, 
Deuteronomy 33:2, 

indicates that the Almighty offered the Torah to the Gentile nations 
also, but since they refused to accept it, He withdrcw His 'shining' legal 

19 Fordetails see Rahmatullah al-Hindi, Ijjiar al-Haq, r.266-63, in which the author 
quotes several Jewish sources. In «he Psource, 215 years pass between the time of 
Abraham's journey to Canaan and Jacob's migration to Egypt [see Genesis I2:4b, 
2 1 :5, 25:26, 47:9}, and the period spent in bolh Canaan and Egypt is 430 years {some 
manuseripts reacl 435 years) [see LXX, Exodus 12:40]. This leaves 215 year period 
lor the time spent in Egypt. 

20 Al-Hindi, [zkaral-yaq, i:64. 

21 Exodus 1-4. 

22 Exodus 11:1-2. 

n CAT, Exodus 12:36. 


protcciion litom them, and traiisfcncd tlicir pioperiy riglits U» Israel, 

who obseived His Law. A passage of Habakkuk is quoicd as confirming 
this claim. 24 

Jfumber of IsraetiUs at tlie Exodus estimated at 2,000,000 
One year after ihe Exodus, Moses and Aaron coumed the total number 
of mcn who were at least twenly ycars old and of fighiing strcngth. Thcir 
tally yielded 603,550 Israelites.'-"' lho Levi tribe was not includcd in iliis 
figure, and neither were females of all ages, old mcn, and any young mcn 
under twenty. Taking these groups into account as well, \ve can infer tliat 
- according to the OT - the total number participating in tlie Exodus 
probably exceeded two million Jews. I will leave it to the imaginative reader 
to surmise how a tribe of seventy people, freshly arriving in Egypt, were 
able to multiply in excess of two million within a mere 2 15 years, cspecially 
when thcir male newborns were being systematically killed for the previous 
eight decades. Such is the OT which rcsls in our hands today. 

The sloitejab/els and Ihe goldeti calf 

Moses went up to the mount and supplicated thcre for forty days. "At the 
end of that time God gave him 'two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone, 
wrilten with the finger of God'." 2 " 

1 And when the people saw, that Moses dclaycd to comc dovvn out of 

the mount, the people gathered thcmsclves together unto Aaron, and 
said unto him, Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for 
this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we 
know not what is become of him. 

2 And Aaron said unto them, Break o(V the golden earrings, which are 
in the ears of your wives, of your sons, and of your daughters, and bring 
Iketn unto me. 

4 And he received them at thcir hand, and fashioncd it with a graving 
tool, after he had made k a molten calf; and they said, These be tky 
gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. 
6 And they rose up early on the morrow, and olTered burrjt ofTerings, 
and brought pcace ofTerings; and the. people sat down to cat and to 
drink, and rose up to play. 27 

24 "Ccntile", The Jewisli Eneydopaedia, Funk and Wagnalls Company, New York/ 
London, 1 90 1 - 1 9 1 2, v:620. Contrast this with Prophet Muhammad's conduet towards 
the very members of Quraish who ploitcd hb assassination, and his rcquest to 'Ali to stay 
behind and return all the valuables they had entrusted him with. See this work p. 30. 

25 Numbers 1:20-46. 

' 26 Joan Comay and Ronald Brownrigg, 1 1 'lio's I Vho in Ihe Bible: The Old Testamen/ and 
ihe Apoctypha and llieMw Testamen!, Two Volumes in One, Bonanza Books, New York, 1 980, 
p. 283, quoting Exodus 31:18. Cited thereafter as YVho's Who. 

27 Exodus 32:1-6. 


This is the classic tale of the Israelite's ingratitude towards God, Who 
had only recendy put an end to their shackles and parted the sea for their 
escape. Ort the verge of punishing them for their intransigence, at the last 
moment He "repented of the evil which He thoughi todo unto his people." 28 
The idea of God repeniing, like some common sinner, is yet another of the 
OT's unfathomable images. 

U'andering in the wilderness 

In the wilderness the Jews very often tried to stone Moses. At the same 
time Aaron and Miriam's jeaiously of their brother began to peak, causing 
*them to speak out against him. 

The Lord was angry at this attack, and Miriam was stricken with 
leprosy. Moses prayed that she be forgiven, and she recovered after 
seven days of isolation in the desert outside the camp. Oddly enough 
Aaron was not punished - perhaps because of his priestly role. 2 ' 

Levite Korah also instigated a revolt and spoke out "against Moses 
and Aaron, together with Dathan and Abiram and two hundred and fifty 
leaders." 30 

Towards the ciose of these wanderings Moses assembled the congregation 
near thejordanian boundarics and delivered a dctailed proclamation, giving 
them the Laws and the constitution of the government." 

Moses told tiiese priests and leaders: Each year the Israelites must 
come together to cclebrate the Festival of Shelters at ihc ptace whcrc 
the Lord chooses to be worshipcd. You must read these laws and 
teachings lo the people at the festival every seventh year, the year 
whcn loans do not necd to be repaid. Everyone must come - mcn, 
women, children, and even the foreigncrs who live in your towns. And 
each new generation will liscen and learn to worship the Lord their 
God with fear and trembling and to do csactly what is said in God's 

There is no evidence that this praetice of reciting the laws every seventh 
year ever took place, partly due to the turbulent political situation which 
soon engulfed the Israelites. 33 Also, as we shall see in the next chapter, all 

28 Esodus 32:14. 

29 IITio'j M'Ao, 1:285. 

3 ° Numbers 16:3. 

31 Josephtis, Anllq., Book 4, Ch. 8. The speech condudes on {same chapter) No. 43 (301). 

32 CE\ '. Deuteronomy 3 1 : 1 0- 1 3, p. 237. 

33 See this work pp. 228-32. 


the books ascribed to Moses %vere in fact written several hundred years later. 
Only a short while afterwards Moses passed away, as had most of the 
generation that fled across the sca four decades earlier. With joshua in- 
heriting Icadership, he resumcd the marcli towards Canaan and led them 
across the Jordan River to victories ovcr Jericho and other towns. " 

The Time of thejudges - theArkfalls into enemy hands (c 1200-1020 B.c.) 
The elders,of Israel decreed that the Ark r> should be removcd from the 
temple of Shiloh, to lead the Israelite army in its assault on the Philistines. 
But the Ark fell into enemy hands, and soon most of the Israelite cities, 
including the temple of Shiloh, were reduced to ruins. 36 

2. Jewish Hisiory Afler Establishing (he Khgdom 

Saul'sreign (c. J 020- 1 000 B.C.) 

Given that the Israelites' hierocratic government had proved ineffectual 
in resisting the Philistines, the prophet Samuel assisted in establishing a 
hereditary monarchy. Saul became its first beneficiary, aseending to the 
throne despite Samuel's possiblc misgivingsv" 

David's reign (c. 1000-962 H.C.) 

Though expellcd from Saul's court David had ahvays demonstrated rc- 
markable qualities of leadership, and when Saul fell at Gilboa he declared 
himself King. 38 

Bathsheba's story is worth recounting: David once spied an exquisite 
woman bathing in the moonlight. After inquiry hc learned her to be Bath- 
sheba, wifc of Uriah, a Hittite officer on active ser\'ice at the front. David 
discreetly sent lor her and made love to her, through which shc became 
pregnarit. To avoid an impending seandal he rccalled her husband Ironi 
the front at Bathsheba's request, that he might go to his wife. Bui as Uriah 
spent his leave with friends instead of going to her, David plotted to have 

w James Hastings, D.D., Dictitmmy of llw Bible (Second Edition), T. & T. Clark, Edinburgh, 
1963, p. 433. Cited thereafcer as DUtionmy of the Bible. 

35 According to Deuteronoiny 10:1-5, the Ark coniained the second pair of stone 
tablets on which God had again chisellcd the Tcn Comniandmenis - "ll has bccii 
suggested that the original Ark was a box containing sacred siones in which the Deity 
was conccivcd to dwcll." \Diclionary of the Bible, p. 53]. 

■ le Dktionaiy of the Bible, p. 434. 

3? ibid, p. 434. 

38 2 Samuek 2:4. 


him killed in the battlefield. This being done, he soon married her. The 
chUd she bore did not survive, but later she bore him a second son, Solomon, 
and was instrumental in appointing him King. 39 

Solomon's reign (c. 962-93 i B.C.) 

Solomon's lavish Hfestyle was a drastic departure from his father's simple 
ways and, according to Biblical legend, he was not content with marrying 
the daughters of his tributaries for he filled his harem with other women 
besides. The claim made in 1 Kings 11:3, that he possessed 700 wives and 
300 concubines, is likely an exaggeration though. 4 " He buih the Tempje 
in Jerusalem on a massive scale, 41 dedicating it to the singular worship of 
Yahweh. 4 - Simultaneously though he erected pagan shrines for his numerous 
heathen wives; "he himself, moreover, is said to have been influenced by 
his wives to pay some tokens of respect to their gods, while he remained 
essentially a Yahwist." 43 

f'. The Divided Kingdoms 

Following his death, Solomon's realm was splintered into the twin states 
of Judah and Israel. 

VVhen the kingdom was divided. . . [the] empire came to an end. The 
time of her political glory had been less than a ceninry, and her empire 
disappeared, never to return. The nation, being divided and its parts 
often warring with one another, couid not easily become again a power 

of importance. 44 


Here I will briefly mention some of the kings of Israel, to give the reader 

a taste of the political and religious anarchy which seized that country. 

1 - Jeroboam I, son of Solomon (931-910 B.c.) 

He was the first king of Israel after the splitting of the monarchy. 
As people were discontent with Solomon's taxation policies, he had 

39 li'lw's Who, i:65-6, 93. In Islam ihis lale is a brawn lie. 

40 Dictionary of the Bibit, p. 435. 

41 I Kings, Ch. 5-8. 

42 The Hebrew term for God. 

4:5 Dictionary of the Bibte, p. 410. Islam rejects these allegations. 
44 ibid, p. 436. 

220 thi-; iiis'I'oky ov m L yvk'ANk: n;xi 

started plotting against him through encouragcmcni from thc priest 
Ahijah. Condemned to death by h b own father, lie fled to Egypt and 
there received political asylum. On Solomon's death his other son. 
Rehoboam, asccnded to the throne, and at this point ihc northern 
tribes decided to secede and establish the scparatc kingdom of Israel. 
with Jeroboani happily abandoning the lifc of an exile lo bccomc 
its first ruier. 45 

Conscious of rcligion's central roie in His nation.Jcroboam fcared 
llial his subjccts might travel to the soutliern kingdom of Judah u> 
ofler sacrifices in JcrusaJem, at Solomon's Tcmplc. io curb thcsc fcars 
he had to wean their sights away from the Temple, and so he "revived 
the traditional sanctuaries at Betlicl near his southcrn border and 
Dan in the extreme north, and set up golden calves in tlicm, as Aaron 
had done in the desert." 4 " 

2. Mdab tojehoram (910-841 B.c.) 

Jeroboam was Ibllowed by a succession of kings who, on oceasion, 
enjoyed the throne but briefly before suffering thc assassin's knife. 
The eight kings of this period walkcd in the ways of Jeroboam, all- 
owing sinful conduet in religious niatters and turning the people 
away from the not ion of onc tme God. 47 Ahab (874-853 B.c.) vvenl 
so far as to introduce the Phoenician god Baal as onc of the gods of 
Israel, to appease his wife. 48 The last king of this period, Jehoram, 
was massacrcd alongwith his entire family and all the prophets of 
Baal, by his general Jehu. 49 

3. Jelai (841-814 B.C.) 

Leading a revolt instigated by the prophet Eiisha,Jehu claimed that 
God had appointed liim King of Israel to vvipe out the sinful house 
of Ahab. He butehered all thc family members of the three previous 
kings who had worshipped Baal, beheading Ahab's seventy sons and 
piling their heads in two heaps. 5 " He then wrenched the country 
into religious reformation. 31 • 

« Who's Who, i:205. 

« ibid, i:206. 

•»' ibid, i:63, 1 07, 29 1 , and 394. See also josephus, Antig., Book 8, Ch. 1 2, No. 5 (3 1 3). 

48 Diclimiary of ihe BibU, p. 1 6. 

« Who's Who, i:l92. 

50 i«rf, i:l94-5. 

51 /Wrf,i:l94-5. 


4. Jehoahaz to Hoskea (814-724 B.c.) 

Despitejehu's reforms the country soon commenced an alarming 
militan.- decline, the one note of triumph beingjoash's victory over 
Amaziah, who was king of Judah at the time. Joash (798-783 B.C.) 
plundered gold and silver vessels from the Temple of Solomon, along 
with much of that country's roya) treasury. 52 Otherwise the period 
was marked by a rapid series of assassinations and the submission 
of Israel to Assyrian power. 53 Hoshea (732-724 B.C), the last king 
of Israel, made a rash attempt to throw off the Assyrian yoke; Shal- 
maneser. the nevv Assyrian ruler, reacted by invading vvhat was left 
of Israel and capturiiig and imprisoning Hoshea. The capital Samaria 
surrendered in 721 B.C, and with the deportation of its inhabitants 
came the end of the northern kingdom of Israel. 54 


Like Israel, this country too was gripped by anarchy and idolatry. Some 
of the details in this section will provide an important framework for the 
next chapter and its discussion of the OT's preservation. 

1 . Rehoboam. son of hmg Solomon, lo Abijah (931-9! I B.C.) 

The firsi king of Judah and the successor to Solomon's throne, Re- 
hoboam had eighteen wives, slvty concubines, twenty-eight sons and 
sixtydaughters. Biblical schoiars have painted the religions conditions 
of his time in dark colours, " and the OT states that the people, 

aiso built [thcmselves] high places and imagcs, and groves, on 
cvery high hill." and iindcr every grecn trec. And thcre were 
also sodomites in the land, and they did according to all abom- 
inations of the nations which the Lord cast out befbre the childi'en 
of Israel."' 7 

His son Abijah, ruling three years only, followed in his ways. 58 

3 '- IVho's Who, i:2 1 5. He also visited the aged prophet Elisha alter his victory, which 
makes one ivonder whether Elisha possibly condoned the stealing of gold atid silver 
vessels from Solomon's Temple. 

53 Didionaty of t/ie Bibit, p. 47 1; J r/w i Ft'Ao, i:260, 312, and 345. 

34 J lfo> 5 M7t0,i:159,quotmg2Kgs 15:30. 

55 It'Aoi Who. i:322-23; Dictionaiy of the Bible, p. 840. 

^ Groves were used as sites for pagan rituals of fornication, where mass orgies took 
place underneath trees planted specifically for that purpose. See Elizabeth Dilling, The 
Plot Against Chmtianitt, ND, p. 1 4. 

57 1 Kings 14:23-4. 

58 II 7w V 1 1 'lio. i:25; Dictionan of the Bible, p. 4. 



2. Asa to Jekosliaphal (911-848 B.c.) 

Asa (91 1-870 B.c.) is praised in the Bible for his piety. 

Hc stumped uui idtilalious praolkcsi ,i\u\ itstorod I lu- Temple 

in Jerusalem as the cenicr ol" worship. h was dccrccd that mi- 
believers would be put to death. Asa evcn stripped of hcr dignittes 
his grandmothcr Maacah . - . [who] had fashioncd an obsccnc 
idol connected with the eult of the Phoenician fertility goddess 
Ashtoreth. 59 

He sent Temple treasure to Benhadad of Damascus, to persuade 
him to invade Israel and thus relieve the pressure on Judah.*" His son 
Jehoshaphat (870-848 B.C.) continued Asa's reforms and destroyed 
many of the local hill-shrines." 1 

3. Jfefemnm to Ahaz (848-716 B.c.) 

This period, covering the reign of eight kings, saw a return to 
idolatry and moral degeneracy. Jehoram (848-840 B.C.) constructed 
high places in the mountains of Judah and compelled the inhabitants 
of Jerusalem to cotnmit fornication, 1 ' 2 while his son Ahaziah intro- 
duced Baal as one of the gods b( Judah."* Similarly, Amaziah (796- 
78 1 B.c.) set up the gods of Seir as his own gods, prostrating before 
tliem.* 4 His successor l/zziah put much effort into developing the 
kingdom,'' r ' but with Ahaz (736-716 B.c.) judah declincd rapidly. 
Ahaz "indulged in pagan cults and revived the primitive cuslom of 
child sacrifices," f,$ going so far as to saerifice his own son as a means 
of invoking Yahweh's favour. 87 Eventually, as a token of his sub- 
mission to Assyrian rule, he was compelled to replace the worship 
of Yahweh in Solomon's Temple with that of Assyrian deities. 68 

59 Who's Who, i:56. 

6» Diclionary of the Bible, pp. 59-60. 

61 Who's Who, r.193. 

62 KJV, 2 Ch 2 1: 1 1 (see also 21 : 13). In the CEFhowever the reference to fornication 
is omitted. See this work pp. 292-3. 

63 Diclionary of the Bible, p. 1 7. 
6* 2Chroniclcs25:14. 

65 Who's Who, i:377-8; Diclionary of the Bibk, p. 102 1. 

66 Who's Who, i:44. 

07 Diclionary of the Bible, p, 16. 
68 it>id,p. 16. 


4. Hezekiak (716-687 B.c.) 

Succeeding his father Ahaz at the age of 25, he proved himself to 
be one of Judah's most prominent rulers and carried out the following 

* He destroyed the brazen serpent that Moses had made, which 
had been an object of vvorship in the Temple. 69 

• He cleansed the country sanctuaries from idolatry and cut 
down the groves used for pagan rituals of promiscuity. 70 

5. Manasseh to Amon (687-640 B.C.) 

Manasseh (687-642 B.C.) reacted against his father's reforms by re- 
instating the altars which Hezekiah had abolished, establishing new 
altars for Baal and worshipping the host of heavens and serving 
them. His son Amon continued these practices." 

6. Josiak (640-609 B.C.): the Torak miracubusly rediscovered 
Succeeded his father at the age of eight. In his eighteenth year as 
king, the high priest Hilkia showed Shapham, the royal scribe, a 
'Book of the Law' which he had unearthed in the Temple during its 
renovation. It was read to Josiah and he became greatly agitated at 
how the religious practices of his time had gone astray, 72 calling a 
public assembly in the Temple and reading the entire Book to all 
tiiose prcsent before setting out on a programmc of sweeping reforms. 

The Temple was purged of all hcathen altars atid enlt objects, 
particularly those bclotigitig to the Assyrian worship of the sun, 
the moou atid the stars. . . The praetice of chtld saerifice . . . was 
stopped 'that no one might burn his son or his daughter as an 

olFering to Molech.' [2 kg 23:10] The idolatrous priests were 
killed, the pagan house of male prostitutes was pulled down, 
and the local shrines outside Jerusalem were destroyed and 
defiled by burning human bones on them.' ' 

7. Jehoahaz to Zedekiak (609-537 B.C.) 

During this turbulent period Judah faced mounting pressure, first 
from the Egyptians and then the Babylonians. The Iatter were led 
by King Nebuchadnezzar, who tookjudah's royal household captive 


'2 Who's Who, i:243 
« ibid, i:243. 

2 Kg 18:4. 

Dictionary of the Bibte, p. 382; Who's Who, i: 152; 2 Kings 23: 14. 

Dictionaty of the Bibte, p. 616; Who's Who, i:50. 



to Babylon and Icft none behind bu t thc poorcst of the land.' 4 
ZedJkiah (598-587 B.c.) whose original name was Matlaniah, the 
last rultjr of Judah, was himself appointed by Neburliadnezzar as a 
puppct king; after niiic years of subservience hc umviscly rcvoltcd 
through Egyplian encouragemem, prccipilatinga Babyloniaii attack.' - ' 

ii. Thc Destruction of thc First Temple (586 B.C.) 
and the Babylonian Exile (586-538 B.C.) 

Pressing their siege of Jerasalcm until the cily surrendcrcd in August 586 B.C, 
ihe Babylonian army torc down ihc city walls and dcstroycd thc Tcniplc. 

Pcrhaps fifty (liousnnd Judacans, iiu luding womcn and childrcn, had 
bccn iranspoitcd to Kabylonia in iwo dcporiations of Nebuchadnezzar. 
Thcsc, with thc exception of a few political leaders, wcrc settled in 
colonics, in which they wcrc pcrmittcd to h.ivc houses of thcir ovvn, to 
visit onc anotlicr iieely, and to cngagc in busincss. ' ,1 

iii. Thc Rcstoration of Jenis» In n an<l ihc 
listablishmcnt of thc Smmd Tcni[ilc (5 15 B.C.) 

A gencration aflcr thc Exile, Babylon Icll under Persial) cotiirol;Jcws wcrc 

permitted to return to thcir homcland and a small number accepted the 
offer, establishing the Second Temple in Jerusalem by 515 B.c.' 7 It was 
during these Second Temple limes that the ptophct Ezra first began his 
ccrcmonial reading of the Torah publicly (c. 449 B.C). More of a religious 
than a political figure, hc became the founder of legal Jtidaism and remained 
highly influential in je'wish thought ihroughout thc ensuing centurics.' H 

ia The Hellenistic rule (333-168 B.C.) and the 
Maccabaean Revolt (168-135 B.C.) 

With Alexander the Great's successful conquest of Palestine in 331 B.C., 
the Jews soon assimilated into Hellenistic culture. 

« Wlut'i Who, i: 1 88- 190. Scc also 2 Kings Ch. 24. 
» Who'} Who, i:388; Dktionary of the Bibit, pp. 1054-5. 

7( > Dictionary of the Bibte, p. 440. Scc aksojacob Ncusncr, The Way of Torak, Wadsworth 
Publishing Co., California, 4tl> edition, 1988, p. xiii. 
77 Ncusner, The Way of Torali, pp. xiii, xxi. 
7<i Dictionary of the Bibit, p. 44 1 . See also Nehetniah 8. 


One curious aspcct of this era of Hellenistic assimilation appcars 
in the fact that one high priest, Onias III., dcposed by the Seleucid 
authorities, went to Egypt and established at LeontopoHs in the 
name of Heliopolis a dissident temple to Yahweh, which existed 

there for a hundred years. 19 

Antiochus IV, King of Syria, was particularly zealous in imposing Greek 
fashions and Greek religion on this conquered realm. Becoming suspicious 
of Jewish loyalty he commanded, in 168 B.C., that altars to Zeus be erected 
throughout the land, and especially within the Temple atjerusalem. Although 
fear of the Syrian army secured widespread obedjence to this decree, Judas 
Maccabee. a warrior, revolted and was able to defeat Antiochus' generals 
in several successive battles, raging from 165-160 B.C. He cleansed the 
Temple from Syrian influences and established a dynasty which survived 
until 63 B.C, though he himself was killed in 160 B.C. 80 

v. The End of The Maccabacan Dynasty (63 B.C), the Roman Rule 
and the Desiruction of the Second Temple (70 C.E.) 

The Maccabaean dynasty ended with the Roman conquest ol'Jerusalem, 

and jttst over one century later, in 70 C.E., Roman troops dcstroyed the 
Second Temple. "The second dcstiuction proved final.'"" 

Here are some of the dates which N'eusncr provides as cornerstones of 
Jewish achievement, in the centuries fbllowing the Second Templc's coilapse: s - 

Tabte of dates 

c. 80-110 

Gamaliel heads academy at Yavneh 
Final canonization of Hebrew Scriptures 
Promulgation of Order of Praycr by rabbis 


Akiba leads rabbinical mo\'ement 


Bar Kokhba leads messianic war against Rome 
Southern Palestinc devastated 

f. 220 

Babylonial academy founded at Sura by Rab 

r. 250 

Pact beuveen Jews and Persian king, Shapur I: Jews to keep 
state law; Persians to permit Jews to govern selves, live by 
own religion 

79 DUtionan of the Bibit, p. 442. 

80 ibid, pp. 603-4. 

81 Neusner. The Wat of Torah, p. xiii. 

82 ibid, pp. x.\i-xxii. Neusner's claim that the final canonisatton of the Hebrew Scrip- 
tures occurred between 80-1 10 C.E. is highly inaccurate. See this work pp. 252-6. 



c. 300 

Closure of the Tosefta, corpus of supplementary material 
in exegesis and amplification of the Mishnah 

c. 330 

"Pumbedita school headed by Abbaye, thcn Raba, lays 
fbundation of Babylonian Talimu/ 

c. 400 

Talmud of the land of Israel completed as a sysiemaiic 
commentary on four of the Mishnah 's six di\'isions, in 
particular Agricullurc, Scasons, Womcn, and Damages 
(omiltcd: Holy Things and Puiilies) 

r. 400 

Ral) Ashi bcgins to shapc liabrhnian Taf mm/, wliicli is 
completed by 600 


Moslem conquest of Middle East 

c. 700 

Saboraim complete the final editingof Babylonian Talmud as 
a systcmatic commentary on fbur of the Mishnah 's six 
divisions (excluded: Agriculture and Purities) 

Tliis table rcveals tliat the complete loss of political power compcllcd the 
Jews to begin an era of literary activity, with the establishment of various 
academies culminating in the compilation of the Mishna,Jcrusalcm Talmud, 
and the Talmud Babylonia. In laci ihis lasi acquired its final shape in Islamic 
Iraq c. 700 C.E, or perhaps even later (since all dates aside from the Muslim 
conquest are approximate), maturing under the strong influence of Islamic 
fiqk whicli had taken hold in lraq six decades earlier. 

3. Conclusion 

The anrfals of Judaism do not encourage faith in the OT's text, as most 
of the rulers were idolaters who sought by various means to turn their 
subjects away from God. The very progenitors of Israel were sadly no 
better an example, dealing treacherously with their kith and kin. Moscs, 
the greatest Israelite prophet, had tocontend with a nation tremendously 
ungrateful to the Lord and to him: after the presentation of numerous 
miraeles, the plagues and the parting of the sea, he had only to leave for 
forty days before the Israelites set up their infamous golden calf. Such an 
attitude casts serious doubt on the Jews' preservation of Moses* teachings 
during his own lifetime, let alone in later eras. The text itself was lost 
more than once, each time for centuries while the kings and their subjects 
reverted to outright paganism. Let us now shift our focus, and examine 
the extent to which these Scriptures were preserved. 



In heavens God and the angels siudy Torah just as rabbis do on earth. 
God dons phylacteries like ajeiv and prays in the rabbinic mo<le. He 
carries out the acts of compassion Judaic ethics call fon _He guides the 
afiairs o( the worid according to the rules of Torah, just as the rabbi 
in his court does. One exegesis of the creation iegend taught that God 
had looked into the Torah and created the worid from it. 1 

It is customary that when a human being builds a palace, he does not 
build it according to his own wisdom, but according to the wisdom of 
a craftsman. And the craftsman does not build according to his own 
wisdom, rather he has plans and records in order to knou- how to 
make rooms and corridors. The Hoiy One, blcssed be He, did the 
same. He looked into the Torah and created the worid. 2 

1 . History of the Old Tislament 

The previous chapter afforded a glimpse of the historical cireumstances 
\vhich made any safeguarding of the OT highly implausible, and in this 
seetion I \vill provide a hiscory of the text itselfl The extehsive quotes I 
utilisc both here and in other chapters, concerning the histories of the OT 
and NT, are purely from the Judeo-Christian camp. Unlike the outdated 
notion that Easterncrs cannot represent themselves and must bc repre- 
sented, i will let ihese seholars represent themselves and have their say 
before I brtng forvvard my own arguments regarding their vicws. 

In Hebrevv the OT consists of three parts: the Pentateuch, the Prophets, 
and the Wrktngs, vvhich are reekoned byjews as rwenty-four books. The 
received text of the Hebrew OT is known as the Massoretic text (MT). 3 


1 Jacob Neusner, The U'av of Torak, p. 81. For Neusner, this is the central myth 
underlying dassical Judaism. But myth does not necessarily mean something untrue; 
he quotes Streng's defmition, that myth is "the essential structure of reality [that] 
manifests in particular monients that are remembered and repeated from generation 
to generation." [ibid, p. 42]. 

Dennis Ftschman, PolHical Discoiirse in Exile, Kari \latx and tkejewhh (htes/ion, p. 
77 ', quoting Susan Handelman, The Slayers of.Woses: The Emergence of Rabbinic Inlerprelalion 
in Modern Literary Theory, Albany: State University of New York Press, 1982, p. 67, 
Which quotes Bereishk Rabbah 1:1. 

" Diciionan of the Bible, p. 972. For a definitton of the Masorah see this work pp. 238. 

228 riil-: UISTOKY O f Tlll. uik'Anu. i I. M' 

i'. History of Torah According to Jcvvish Sourccs 


9 And Moses wrote this law, and deiivered it unto the priests the sons 
of Levi, which bore the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and unto all 
the elders of Israel. 

1 And Moses commanded them, saying, ai the end of eveiy seven years, 
in the solemnity of the year of release, in the fcast of tabernaeles, 

1 1 VVhcn all Israel is come lo up|X'ar bclbrc the I/»rd thy God in the 
place which he shall choose, lhou shalt read this law l>eforc all Israel 
in their lu-aring. 

12 Gathcr tlte people togelher, nun, and wtimcii, and cbildrcn. .md 
thy stranger that is within thy gates, that they may hear, and that they „ 
may learn, and i'ear Lord your God, and observe to do all the words 
of this lavv. 4 

24 And it caine lo pass, when Moses had made an end of writing the 
words of this law in a book, until they were finished, 

25 That Moses coinmauded the Levites, wliich Ik>ix- the ark of the 
covenant of the Lord, saying, 

26 Take this book of the lavv, and put it in the side of the ark of the 
covenant of the Lord your God, that it may bc there for a vviliicss 
against ihee. 

2? For I know thy rebellion, and thy stilV neek: behold, while I am vet 
alivc with you this day, yc have rcbcllious against the Lord; and 
how much more after my death? 

29 For I know that after my death yc will uttcrly corrupt yourselvcs, 
and lurn aside from the way which i have commanded you; and evil 
will befatl you in tiie latter days; bceause yc will do evil in the sighi of 
the Lord, to provoke him to anger through the work of your hands. ' 


Proving the exislcncc of the Torah and its usage in the time of the First 
Temple is very difllcult. To quote Aaron Demsky; 

Another feature of the sabbatical year is the public reading of the Torah 
during the holiday of Booth (Tabernaeles), which concludes the year 
(Deuteronomy 31:10-13). There is no textual evidence attcsting to ihc 
observance of the sabbatical and jubilee years in First Temple times. In 

4 Deuteronomy 31:9-12. 

5 ibid, 31:24-29. 


fact, the author of Chronicles... makes the claim that the 70 sabbatkal 
\-ears from the conquesc of Canaan by the Israelites until the destruction 

of the Teniple were not observed. 6 

According to the Damascus document (of vvhich seven copies were 
found in the Dead Sea Scrolls) the Lord gave the Torah to Moses in its 
entirety in written Ibrm. These writings were sealed in the Ark for app- 
rosimately five centuries, however, and were therefore unfamiliar to the 
masses. Discussing the problem of David's adulterous relationship with 
Bathsheba" and why he was not put to death, the Damascus document 
answers, "the books of the Law had been seaied in the Ark from the time 
of Joshua [c. 1200 B.C.E.] until the time ofKing Josiah of Judah (severith 
century B.C.E.], when they were rediscovered and republished [see 2 Kings 
22]." 4 Meaning that David and the rabbis who were his contemporaries 
were completely oblhious to what lay written in the Torah. 

Whether we conjecture that the Torah was placed within the Ark or 
simply beside it, the subject is highly convoluted. The Ark itself was lost 
10 the Philistincs for seven months diiring the Philistine invasions (c. 1050- 
1020 B.c:.F...; upon its recovery, fUty-thousand and seventy Israelites from 
the town of Beth-shemcsh were destroyed by God for daring to peek into 
the Ark. !l By the time King Solomon ordered that the Ark be moved to 
the First Temple, l Kings 8:9 informs us that its sole contents were the 
two tablets which Moses had brought back from Sinai - not the entire 
Law Even if the Torah was kept separately from the Ark, il seems to have 
disappeared emirely fromjewish life for centuries. Seventy sabbatical years 
(live centuries), if not more, passed without any public recital of the Law, 
culminating in the introduetion of foretgn gods and pagan rites into the 
Israelite populacc. This is surely a elear indication that the Torah had 
long since been erased from the nation's collective memory. Not until the 
eighteenth year of King Josiah's reign (6+0-609 B.C.I'..) was the Torah 
'miraculously ^cdiscovercd, ,|,, prompting Josiah's sweeping refbrms against 
child saerifice and other pagan tiiuals. Bu t the Torah was still not in 
coramon use for another two centuries at least. It seems to have dis- 
appeared from Jewish conseiousness as suddenly as it appeared. There is 
good evidence to suggest that the first reading and cxpounding of the 

b A. Demsky, "Who Returned Kirai: Ezra or Nehemiah", Jiilile Recieu; vol. xii, no. 
2, April 1996. p. 33. 

For the story of Bathsheba sec 2 Samuel I ) . 

8 G. A. Anderson, "Torah Before Sinai - The Do 's and Don'ts Before the Ten 
Comniaiidments", Bilile Reriew, vol. xii, no. 3,Jime 1996, p. 43. 

9 See 1 Samuel 6: 19. 
10 2 Kings 23:2-10. 



Law to the general public (after the time of Moses) did not occur until 
Ezra's promulgation c. 449 B.C.E. Note that tlicrc is a massivc gap of over 
1 70 years from the time of the Law's rediscovery (62 1 B.C.E.) to Ezra's 


U. History of the Torah According to Modern Scholars 

It will be usefui to start with a chronological outline of the OT books based 
upon generally accepted conclusions of BiblicaI criticism. The following 
table is from C.H. Dodd, The Bible Today.' 2 

Note: the dates given are rather sketchy, and secm inclined to shift up 
and down on an occasional basis. Rowlcy has discussed the difierent trends 
in the dating of OT books, 13 but such discrepancies will not have much 
bearing on the outcome of this discussion. 

Century B.c. 

XIII (or 

Exodus from Egypt 1 

Scttlement in Palestine 

Wars with Canaanites, etc. 
Foundation of Monarchy 
(David, 1000 B.C.) 

Oral traditions 
(laws, legends, 
[ poems) preserved 
in later writings. 

XII (?) 



Court chronicles begin (incorporated in later books). 


Early laws and traditions written down: Judacan 

collection ('J') and Ephraimite collection ('E'), later 

incorporated in Genesis-to-Joshua. 


Amos, Hosea, Micah, Isaiah. (Fail of Samaria, 721 B.C.) 


Josiah's Reformation, 621 B.C; Deuteronomy,Jeremiah, 

Zephaniah, Nahum. 


Habakkuk,Judges, Samuel, Kings. (Fail of Jerusaiem, 
586 B.C.). Ezekiel, 'II Isaiah', Haggai, Zechariah. 


'Priestly' laws and narratives of Genesis-to-Joshua (T') 
written on basis of earlier traditions. Malachi, Job. 


Compilation of Gcnesis-tojioshua (out of J', 'E', 'P' 

and Deuteronomy). 

" Dictionaty of tht Bible, p.954. 

'2 C.H. Dbdd, ThtBlbk To-day, Cambridge University Press, 1952, p. 33. 

13 H. H. Rowley, The OT and Modern Study, Oxford University Press, 1961, p. xxvil 



Century b.c. 


Chronicles, Ecclesiastes. 


Book of Psalms completed (largely out of much earlier 
poems). Ecclesiasticus, Daniel, etc. 


Book of Wisdom, etc. 

The collection and codification of IsraePs ancient laws resulted iri the 
so-ca!!ed Pentateuch, or the Five Books of Moses (covering Genesis to 
Deuteronomy); according to C. H. Dodd these received their final shape 
around the fourth century B.C.E. The works of the prophets were also 
edited, vvith historical records often akered in the interest of bringing 
them into line with the prophet's teachings. 14 

VVilliam G. Dever, Professor of Near Eastern Archaeology and Anthro- 
pology at the University of Arizona, presents another view. He states that 
the Biblical sources were edited in the late Persian (fifth-fourth centuries 
B.C.E.) and Heilenistic (third-second centuries B.C.E.) eras. And there are 
others such as Tom Thompson of Copenhagen, his collcague Niels Peter 
Lemche, Philip Davies of Sheffield, "and a number of other schofars, 
both American and European, who believe that the Hebrew Bible was 
not only edited in the Persian/ Heilenistic periods but was written then." 15 
Meanwhile Professor Frederick Cryer of Copenhagen, 

concludcs that the Hebrew Bible "cannot bc shown to have achieved 
ics present contents prior to the Heilenistic period." The pcoplc we 
call Israel did not use that term for themselves, he says, before the 
fourth century B.C.E. The Saul and David narratives, for example, 
were written under "the probablc induence" of Heilenistic literature 
about AJexander the Great. That these Biblical tesis were composed 
so late "necessarily forees us to lovvcr our estimation of the work as an 
historical sourcc." 11 ' 

Niels Lemche has gone even further, tracing the creation of ancient 
Israel to "I9th-century German historiography that saw all civilizations in 

14 C.H. Dodd, Tht Bible To-day, pp. 59-60. 

15 H. Shanks, "Is This Man a Biblical Archaeologist?", Biblical Archaeology Revkw, 
July/August 1996, vol. 22, no. 4, p. 35. 

16 H. Shanks, "New Orleans Gumbo: Plenry of Spice at Armual Meeting", Biblical 
Archaeology Review, March/April 1997, vol. 23, no. 2, p. 58. 



terms of ils own concept of the nation-state."' 7 To him the social and 
political concept of an ancient Israel is thus a whimsical ideai, born of 
Europc's own prcoccupation wjth the nation-statc in the 1800s.'" 

2. The Sources of Jewish Uterary Culture 

L Original Language of the Old Testament was Not Calied Hebrew 

The pre-exilic language used by Jews was a Canaanitc dialect not known 
as Hebrew. The Phoenicians (or, more accurately, the Canaanites) invented 
the first true alphabet c. 1500 B.C.E., based on letters instead of deseriptive 

images. Ali successive alphabets are indebted to and derivative of this 
Canaanite accomplishment. 15 ' 

In general culture the Canaanites are no less remarkable, and not a 
little of that culture was taken over by the Hebrcws.... The Hebrews 
vvere not great butlders, nor very apt in the arts and crafts. As a result 
they had to rcly heavily on the Canaanites in this ficld, and in others 
as wcll. Whatever language liie Hebrews spoke. befoie sellliug in Palestine, U mym 
a dialect of Canaanite that became tlie'tr language after the setlteinent.' 1 " 

Some seholars believe that Hebrew and Aramaic are simply two dialects 
of Canaanite. 21 The pre-exilic Jewish seript was in faet Canaanite, 22 although 
it is now falsely designated as old Hebrew or paleo-Hebrew. Abraham 
and his deseendants formed too small a clan in Canaan to establish their 
own unique language, and by necessity they must have used the pre- 
dominant Canaanite; it is very unlikely that the Israelites, present in such 
small numbers and foreed to endure hardship and slavery in Egypt, were 
in a position conducive to setting up a new language. At best they may 
have adopted a particular Canaanite dialect at some point, but certainly 
nothingseparate and unique. In faet the OT itself never refers to the Jewish 
language as Hebrew, as illustrated by these two verses from Isaiah 36: 

17 ibid, p. 58. 

18 Muslims cannot praetice such cynicism; they must believe in the existence of 
David and Solomon, as weU as in the Torah (as revealed to Moses and whose traces 
may be found in some books of the OT). 

19 Isra'il Willinson, Tarikh al-Lugat as-Samijrfa (Hislory of Semilic iMnguages), Dar al- 
Qalam, Beirut, Lebanon, P.O. Box 3874, ND, p. 54. Cited thereafter as VVilfinson. 

,|W Didionary of tke Bibk, p. 12); italies added. 

21 Willinson, p. 75. 

22 Wilfinson, p. 91. 


1 1 Then said Eliakim and Shebna and Joah unto Rab-shakeh, Speak, 

I pray thee, unto thy servants in the Syrian language; for we undersiand 

il: and speak not to us in the Jews' language, in the ears of the people 

that are on the wali. 

13 Then Rab-shakeh stood, and cried wilh a loud voice in the Jews' 

language, and said, Hear ye the words of the great king, the king of 


Such is the rendering ia the King James Version, and the same phrase is 
found in the ..\kv World Translationp the Holy Biblejrom theAneient Easiern 
Text?* the Revised Standard Version?* and the Arabic Edition. These last three 
substitute 'Aramaic' for 'Syrian language', but notie of theradesignates the 
other as Hebrew.* 5 2 Kgs 1 8:26 and 2 Ch 32: 1 8 chronicle the same incident 
and incorporate the same expression. In another chapter of Isaiah we read: 

In that day shall five cities in the land of Egypt speak the language of 
Canaan, and swear to the Lord of hosts; one shall be called, The city 

of destrucuon.-' 

The above translations unanimously agree on this phrasing; surely if 
Hebrcw had been founded by then the OT would bear testimony to it, 
instead of vague wordings about the 'Jews' language' or the 'language of 
Canaan.'-" Given that the text makes the reference to the language of 
Canaan gencrically - which, simply put, is Canaanite - wc can infer that 
the Israel ites did not possess a unkjuo tongue at the timc of the Divided 
Kingdoms of Israel and Judah. 

In faet the word 'Hebrcw' was indced in existence, but it predated the 
Israelites and did not refer to anything remotely Jewish. The words 'Ibri 
(Habiru) and 'Ibrani (Hebrcw) were in usage even before 2000 B.C.fc. and 
referred to a gi'ottp of Arab tribes froni the northern reaches of the 
Arabian Peninsula. in the Syrian desert. The appellation spread to other 
Arab tribes in the area unti! it became a synonym for 'son of the desert'. 

'- 1 .\'ck- World Transtatian of the Holy Seriptures, Watchtower Bible and Tract Soctety of 
New Vork, Inc., 1984. 

24 Gcorgc M. Lamsa's translaiion front the Aramaic of the Peshitta, Harpcr, San 

-' 5 Thonias Neison & Sons, 1952. 

2,1 The Revised Standard Version uses "language of Judah". 

27 AJI, Isaiah 19:18. 

28 Of ail the Bibles in niy collection only the C£rexplicitly writes Hebrcw in Isaiah 
19:18. Isaiah 36:1 1-13, 2 K. 18.26, and 2 Ch 32:18. But the accuracy of this work is 
highly suspect, while the other versions ndhere far more closely to the original te.xt. 
See this work pp. 293-4. 


Cuneifbrm and Pharaonic texts from before the Israelites also use such 
words as 'Ibri, Habiri, Habiru, Khabiru, and 'Abiru. In this sense the term 
'Ibrani, as ascribed to Abraham in the Bible, means a member of the 'Abiru 
(or nomadic Arab tribes), of which he was a member. The phrase 'Ibri t 
denoting Jews, was coined later on by the rabbis in Palestine. 29 

k. The Earlyjewish Script: Canaanitc and Assyrian 

The pre-exilic Jewish script was Canaanite. 30 When Aramaic became the 
predominant tongue of the ancient Near East, the Jews adopted this lan- 
,guage and soon assumed its script as well - which was then known as 
Assyrian. 31 

This '*TW>K 3TO or simply JVfltfN 'Assyrian script' was so calied because 
it was the originally Aramean form of the 'Phoemcian script' which had 
been coming into use. . . since the 8th century B.C. and which was hrought 
back by Jews returning from the Exile. The 'square script' (y3"lQ 3D3) 
was derived from titis form of the alphabet. 32 

This square script was not formally designated as Hebrew until the writings 
of Bin Sira and Josephus in the ftrst century C.E., and in the Mishna and 
Talmud, 31 all of which are very iate developments. 

So which language was the OT originally written in? From the inform- 
ation above we see a process of seriptura! evolution: Canaanite, Aramaic 
(Assyrian), and finally scjuare, which later on came to be regarded as Hebrew. 
We can conclude that, prior to their return from the Babylonian Exile in 
538 B.C.E.Jews did not have any means of written communication dlstinctly 
their own. Interestingly Wurthwein annexes the Canaanite alphabet by 
declaring, "This was the Phoenician-Old Hebrew script, the ancestor of all 
the alphabets of past and present." 34 

29 Wilfinson, pp. 73-79. 

30 Wilfinson, p. 91. 

31 Ernst Wurthwem, 77f-Ttxlo/ tkeOld Teslamatt, 2nd Edition, Wiiliam B. Eerdmans 
Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1995, pp. 1-2. Cited thereafter as 

32 idul, p. 2, footnote 4. 

33 Wilfinson, p. 75. 

34 Wurthwein, p. 2. Italics addcd. There is yet another twist to this history of fabri- 
cations. Now in Wadi el-Hol in Egypt, ncar Luxor* a 'Semitic inseription' dated some- 
where between 1900 and 1800 B.C.K. has becn discovcrcd by Dr. Darnclls and his wife 
Deborah. - c/ml. 



iii. The Sources of the Torah 


Just as it remains fashionable to search for the infiuence of ukerior sources 
in the Qur'5n (a subject I wil! tackle teler), 3 ' Western scholars have busied 
themseives in the past with finding sources for the Torah. Julius Wellhausen 
( 1 844- 1918) points out four basic origins: J (the Yahwistic Prophetic narrative, 
c. 850 B.O.); E (the. Elohistic Prophetic narrative, c. 750 B.C.); Z>(De u teronomy 
and Deuteronomic notes elsewhere, c. 600 B.C.); and P (the Priestly Code, 
represented especially in Leviticus and in reformations elsewhere, c. 400 
B.C.). 36 Other sources have also been found, all supposedly Jewish. 

b. NON-jEwisH Sources 

The greatest dtlemma we face however is the discovery of similar wrkings 
in non-Jewish sources - some preceding the OT by at least five centuries. 
According to Ex 20, God verbally proclaimed the Ten Commandments 
and wrote them on two stone tablets, preseruing these to Moses on Mount 

The most famous paralfcl eorpus is, of course, the Code of Hammurabi 
, . . (dated at c. 1 700 B.C). Se slriking is the similarily that aljirst stakmenls 
were made to ihe effecl thal tlie Covenant Code was laten or borrowed Jrom 
Hammurabi's kws. Now it is understood that bot h codes stem from a 
conimon background of wide-sprcad legislation. Though the Hcbrew 
code is latcr in date, it is in some uays simplcr and morc primitive in 
character than that of Hammurabi... 3 ' 

M - cont. The dtrector of the West Semitic Research Project at the University of 
California, Dr. Zuckermann, travellcd to the spot to take detaifed pictures of che 
inscription (J. N. Wilford, "Discovery of Egyptian Inscriptions Indtcates an Earlier 
Date for Origin of the Alphabet", Tke.\m toik Times, Nm; 13, 1999). As the words 
Semitic and anti-Semitic arc nowadays rescrvcd exclusively forjews (rather «han Arabs 
or Arameans), so now it appears that the credit for inventing the alphabet niay 
gradually be taken away from the Phoenicians and given to the ancestors of thejews. 

3J See Chapter 18. 

■^ Dietionary of the Bible, p. 104. 

37 ibid, p. 568; italics added. The Book of the Covenant or Covenant Code is roughly 
Ex 20:22-23:19 [ibid, p. 568). Fredrick Deittzsch, the founding father of Assyriology, 
in his works Babel and Bible and Die Crosse Tauschung has shown that the sources for 
Israelite faith, religion and society were mainly derived from Babylonian sources. (See 
S. Buntmovitz, "How Mute Stones Speak: Interpreting What We Dig Cp", Biblkai 
Archaeologv Rtvieu; March/April 1995, vol. 21, no. 2, p. 61 J. 


Another intriguing example stems from writings found in Ras Shamra, 
in prcscnl-day Syria. Quolmgthc Nalional Gcographic Magazine: 

Evcn Adam and Evc arc mcntioncd in thc Ras Shamra texts. They 

lived in a magnillcent garden in the East, a rather vague address, 
whkh, however, corresponds to that given in thc Bible... In the story 
as writicn by the Ugarit author, Adam was thc tbunder of a nation, 
the Canaan Semites, probably onc of thc oldest sheiks or kings, and 
therefore apparently a historic personality. 38 

These slates, according to the author, date from the 14th or 15th century 
*B.C.E. and therefore predate Moses byat least one century. 

3. Hislory of the Oral Law 

Rabbinical tcaching dictates that the Writtcn Law (the Five Books of Moses) 
and the Oral Law (delivered for centuries by word of mouth) both originated 
at the time of Moses; the latter provided atl the necessary explanations for 
implementing the former. The Mishnah is a compilation of this Oral Lauv 1 '-' 

Thc Mishnah 's own account of thc origin and history of thc Oral Law 
is given in the tractate Aboth, I. At the same timc that the Writtcn Law 
was given from Sinai, thc Oral Law, too, was delivered lo Moses, and 
handed down (orally) in turn to thc leaders of succcssivc gencrations. 40 

Below is the tractate Aboth, 1 , containing the traditional history of the 
Oral Law: 

1 . Moses received the Law from Sinai and commitied it tojoshua, and 
Joshua to the cldcrs, and the eldcrs to the Prophets; and the Prophets 
committed it to the men of the Great Synagogue. They said three 
things: Be deliberate in judgement, raise up many disciples, and make 
a fence around the Law. 

2. Simeon thejust 4 ' was of the reinnants of the Great Synagogue ... 

3. Antigonus of Soko received [the Law] from Simeon thejust ... 

■ ut C. KA. Schacfler, "Sccreis front Syrimi Mills", Tlit ,\almnal Otugrapliit Mngn^iiit, 
vol. Ixiv, no. IJuly 1933, pp. l25-<>. 

*9 Dictionary of the Bible, p. 954. 

40 Herbert Danby (trans), TheMiihnah, lntroduction, Oxford Univ. Press, 1933, p. xvii. 

11 Eithcr Simeon son of Onias, High Priest c. 280 R.<:., or Simeon (I, High Priest 
c. 200 ».{:. 


4-Jose b.Joezerof Zeredah andjose b.Johanan of Jerusalem recetved 
[the Law] from theni ... 42 

And so on. In shon the Mishnah's own account of its legitimacy, contained 
in chis tractate, consists mostly of sayings in praise of the Oral Law along 
with the names of the teachers who handed it down from generation to 
generadon. "Excepring the last four paragraphs the sayings are anonymous." 43 

This traditional account of the Oral Law and its transmission, passing 
from Moses in an unbroken chain to the rabbis of post-Exile Jerusalem, 
is easily disproved by a glance at Jewish history. 2 Kings 22-23 relates the 
discovery of a 'Book of the Law' during King Josiah's reign (640-609 
B.C.E.). 44 The mulrhude of reforms he carried out - purging the Temple 
of heathen altars, eliminating chikl sacrifices, destroying the pagan house 
of male prostitutes. and so on - bears witness that even the most basic 
Jiindamentab of the Law had been wiped clean from Israelite consciousness. 
The extent of these practices belies the existence of those Jewish teachers 
who were snpposedly memorising and transmitting the Oral Law for 
centuries. The Oral traditions are clearly an exponent of the Written Law; 
even H' the latter had disappeared, any faithful preservation of the former, 
orally, would have sufliciently informed rabbis that such pagan rituals 
constituted sacrilege. Where were the religious teaders who werc transmitting 
the Law generation after generation? I ndeed Josiah's grandfather, King 
Manasseh, thought that by restoring the altars to Baal vvhich Hezekiah 
had destroyed, he was "returning to the carly worship of the nation, and 
the Baal whom he worshiped was probably identificel in the minds of the 
people with the national God Yahweh." 4 -' 

Whatever the lorm of Oral Law originally recehed by Moses, it was 
lost several millennia ago and no longer exists. The current Oral Law, 

probably dates from the time when the Written Law was first read and 
expounded to the pcople [by Ezra]. This oral expounding inevitably 
led to differing explanations. Hence in later times it was necessary to 
reduce to writing the explanations considercd authoritative and 
cornret. This proeess began in the time of Hillcl and Shamrnai (end of 
Ist century B.{:. and came to be called misktiah ... Frequently, each 
leacher would compile his own Mishnah. 46 

42 H. Danby (trans . The Mishnah, p. 446. 
yi ibid. p. 446, footnote no. 1 . 

44 Dktionary o/ iht Bibit, p. 382. 

45 ftirf.p.616. 

46 ibid. p. 954. 


Bereft of any original source from which to draw, and given that disputes 
over meaning led each teacher to cornpile his ovvn Oral Law, several 
questions einerge: how valid is the Mishnah which has reached us todav? 
What divine authority does it have over all the other Mishnahs written by 
now-forgotten rabbis? And vvho has the right to pronounce t his as the de- 
finitive Mishnah? 

. 4. Hislory of the Hebrew Te.xl: The Masorah 

The OT's Hebrew text is termed Masoretic because in its present Ibrm 
it is based on the Masora, the textual tradition of thejewish scholars known 
as the Masoretes. 

The Masorah (Hebr, "tradition") refers to the system of vowel signs, 
accent markings, and marginal notes devised by tarly medievai jewish 
scribes and scholars and used in copying the text of the Hebrew Biblc 

in order to guard it from changes. 47 

i. Only Thirty-one Surviving Masoretic Tcxts of OT 

The Masoretic text (MT) allu'des to the end produet, an endeavour in 
which vowel and accent marks were introduced into the vowel-less, conson- 
antal body of the Hebrew Bible in the eariy Middle Ages. The total number 
of Hebrew Bibles written in Masoretic fbrm (either complctc or fragmentary) 
is only thirty-one, dating from the late 9th century to 1 1 00 C.E. 48 The symbol 
•ZJtdesignates the Masoretic text in both the Biblia Hebraka edited by Rudolf 
Kittel (BHK.) and the Biblia Hebraka Slutlgarknsia (BHS).*' These constitute 
the most critical editions of the OT and are highly revered; in faet they boih 
represent ihe tcxt of the same manuseript, B I9A, in the Saltykov-Shchcdrin 
State Public Library of St. Petersburg, written in 1008 C.E. W 

One interesting feature of the Leningrad Codex, as it is known, is its 
dating system. V Lebedev states, 

* ibid, p. 954. 

47 Oxjord Companion to t/u Bibk, p. 500; eruphasis added. 

411 ibid,p.b0\. 

*'•' Wtirthwein, p. 10. 

50 ibid, p. 1 0. A faestmile of this manuseript has recendy becn published: The Leningrad 
Cedex: A Facsimik Edition, William B. Ecrdmans I'ublishing Company, Grand Rapids, 
Michigan, 1998. 



The manuscript bcgins with a Iarge coiophon, which gives the date of 
the manuscript cop\; cited in five different eras: 4770 from Creation, 
14+4 from Kingjehoiachin's esilc. 1319 from 'Greek dominion* (malkut 
lm-yawanim). 940 from the destmction of the se.cond Temple of Jerusalem, 
and 399 from Hijrah (garu ze'irali). The month is Siwan. '' 

f . ■ 

| •■■* 

,T: ** 






■ . ■ . r%}« 

' '«PWI- 

mflo^uo^ - "Sepati 


/i(^(«c /5./: Sample pagtfrom the Isningrad Code.\. The slioivn folio covers 

Genesis 1 2:IB- 13:7.4. \ote llie lack of separalors (markers) belween chapters as 

weil as verses. Reprinled uillt llie pubitsher's kind permissian. 

;>l V. V. U-bcdev. "The Otdest Coinplctc Codex of the Hi-bn-w Bible", The 
Lenmgmti Codev: A Feesimilt Edilion, pp. xxi-xxii. The Codcx beais no Christian daie. 
which makcs scnse given that the Christians - even up to that point - did not have a 
calendar system based on Jcsus. 



Another remark worthy of note here comes from Wurthwein, that "verse 
divisions were already known in ihe Talmudic period, vvith differing Babv- 
lonian and Palestinian traditions". 32 By lacking any form of separatio» 
between verses, this 1 1 th century codex (written so many centuries after 
Talmudic times) casts a pali on this assertion. Howevcr, "the division into 
chaplers, a system derived from Stephen Langton (1 1 50-1 228), was adopted 
in Hcbrcw manuscripts from the Latin Vulgatc in thc fourtccmh ccntury." V! 
Moreover, the verse divisions were not given numbers as subdivisions of 
chapters until the 16th century."' 4 

The Leningrad Codcx is atarmingly rccent given the age of the OT; 
the oldest existing Hebrcw nianuscript of thc cntirc OT hails, in fact, from 
only the lOth century c.E. r ' 5 

A number of subscantiaily earlier Hcbrcw manuscripts, some dating 
from thc prc-Christian era, were hiddcn during the first and second 
centuries A.D. M in various caves in thejudean desert ... ncar the Dead 
Sea and remained there for nearly two millennia, to be found in a 
successson of discoveries beginning in I947. 3 ' 
These ftndings include fragments from nearly all the OT books, but for 
a full copy of the OT seholars are still emireh/ dependent on manuscripts 
dating from the I Oth century and onwards/' 8 

5. In Search of an Authorilative Text 

It is well known that for many centuries the Hebrew text of the Old 
Testament existed as a pureiy consonanlal text. Vowei signs were not 
added to the text until a later stage, when the consonantal text was 
already well cstablished with a long history of transmission behind it. j9 

Thc history of thc various lcxtual varialions, thc subsequent inclusion 
of vowels, and thc final cmcrgencc of an authorilative- version of thc OT 

text, requires detailed serutiny. 

w Wurthwein, p. 21. 
•> :( ibid,p.2\. 
* ibid,p. 21. 

55 ibid, pp. 10-11 - More accurately it shouSd bc hnilcd from thc eariy I UH century 
as it (i.t. thc IjCiiingrad Codex) bears ihc eopying duic <il" 1008 c.K. [ibid, p. 10]. 
5li These dates are baseless; see this work pp. 252-6. 
57 Wiirthwein, p. U . 
5 » (Wrf,p. II. 
^ ibid, p. 12. 



i. The Role of the Council of Jamnia - Late First Century C.E. 
VVflrthwein wrhes, 

The consonantal text which is preserved iri the medieval manuscripts 
and forms the basis of our present editions goes back to about A.D. 
100. As part of the great Jewish revival which marked the decades after 
the catasirophe of A.D.70, the canonkal status of certain disputed books of the 
Old Testament was defined at the Council of Jamnia (latefirsl century A.D.), and 
an auihoritative kxt of the Old Testament was also establuhed, m 

The text preserved in the period following 70 C.E. was simply that of the 
most influential group, the Pharisees. The text types supported by lesser 
groups disappeared, making the current Standard text a result of historical 
development and evolution. 61 Wurthwein's assertion that the Council of 
Jamnia established an authoritative text appears to be nothing short of 
wishful thinking, since this contradicts his clatm elsewhere that the OT 
text was finaHy established in the tenth century c.E. 62 

u. The Old Testament Text was known in a 
Variety of Difiering Traditions 

A false impression has been created among general readcrs that the OT 
has been transmitted through the agcs exacdy word for word, and character 
for character. 63 Such is hardly the case; even the Ten Commandments differ 
in two versions. 64 

Scholars agree that, at the end of the pre-Christian era, the OT text was 
known in a variety of traditions that differed from each other to varying 
degrees. Attempting to solve this puzzle of multiple text tvpes, scholars have 
relicd on different approaches. "Frank M. Cross would interpret thcm as 
local Palestinian, Eg>ptian, and Babylonian textual Ibrms," 1 '"' meaning that 
each of these centres nurtured its own OT text, independent of whatever 
textual forms other centres were using, Shemaiyahu Talmon has objected 

60 ibid,p. 13. halics added. 

61 ibid,p. U. 

62 See this work p. 246. 

63 See "Are Torah Scrolls Esactly the Samef", Bible Review. vol. xiii, no. 6, Dec. 
1997, pp. 5-6. 

6+ See for instance Wurthwein's analysis of the Nash Papyrus [Wiirthweiii, p. 34]. 
65 ibid, pp. 14-15. 


to Cross' theory; he beheves instead that "the ancient authors, compilers, 
tradents and scribes enjoyed what may be termed a conlrolled freedom 
of textual vai iation . . . From t/ie veryftnt stagc of ils maniiKriftt trammission, the 
O/d Testament texl was krtown in a variety <>f Iraditions wluch differed 'from eadi olher 
U) agreateror te\s degree."**' So wluTetis Cross cndorst-s t lir view of eadi crntre 
cslablishing ils own ibrm ol" the tcxt, Tahnon argttes that tlic variations 
are due not to diflerent centres but to the- compilers and scribes thcmsekes, 
who from Iru start exercised a limhcd frecdom in how they could rc-shape 
tlic lexl. Whalever the answer may be, ihe esistenre of diflerent iexiual 
forms is irrcfutablc. 

iii. Approximalely 6000 Discrepancies Betweon ihe 
Samaritan and Jewish Pentateuchs AJone 

A separate rehgious and ethnic Hebrew sect, the Samaritans claimed Moses 
as their sole prophet and the Torah as their only Holy Book, the perfect 
recenston of which they insisted they (and not the Jews) possessed. 67 The 
exact date of the Samaritans' split from the Jews remains unknown, but it 
most likeiy occurred during the Maccabean Dynasly (166-63 H.C.K.) with 
the ravaging of Shechem and the Mount Gerizim sanctuary. ,; " 

Thcproblein of ihe Samarkan fVulatcuch is (h. u it diltcrs from [tlic 
Masoretic Hebrew text] in some six thousand instances. . . . [manyj are 
trivial and do not aflect the meaning of the tcxt, yet it is significant 
that in about ninetecn hundred instances [the Samaritan Pentateuch 
agrees with the Septuagint 1 '" agatnst the Masoretic texi]. Some of the 
varian ts in [the Samaritan Penlaleuch] must be rcgaided as aiterations 
introduced by the Samaritans in the interest of their own cult. This is 
true especially of the command inserted aficr Exod. 20:17 to build a 
sanetuary on Mount Gcrizim, of Deut- 1 1:30 where DDW ^1>D is added 

66 ibid, pp.14-15. ltalics added. 

67 Dktionary of tlie Bibie, p. 880. Recension ts the process of examining all available 
manuscri]>ts, and forming a text based on the most trustwonhy evidence. 

68 VVUrthwein, p. 45. 

69 The Septuagint refers to the Old Testamen! as translated into Greek, supposedly 
diiring tlic third century B.C., and used by Jews living in the Grcck diaspora to rcad 
their Scripturcs in the language mosi familiar to them. Wiirthwcin writes that "wliat 
we find m [the Septuagint) is nol a singlc version but a colleciion of versions tnade 
by various writers who diflcrcd greally in iheir iranslatton mclliods, their knowlcdge 
of Hebrew, their styles, and in other ways." [ibid, pp. 53-4]. 


to iT|0 ('2tf NW), and of nincteen passages m Deuteronomy vvhere 
thc choicc of the ho!y place is set iri the past and the referenee to 
Shechem is made clear.' 

One is certainly tempted to question how many of these 6000 discrep- 
ancies are due to Samaritan alterations, and how many tojewisb ones. As 
we \vill see on p. 245, no single authoritative version of the OT existed prior 
to at kast the first century c.E., let alone an authoritative version that was 
being transmitted with any appreciable degree of fidelity. Infer, at least iri 
the nineteen hundred instances of agreement between the Septuagint and 
Samaritan against the Masoretic, that the Jews altered this last text. The 
Septuagint came about tn the 3rd century B.C.E. under the direction (according 
to traditional sources) of six translators from each of the tvvelve tribes of 
Israel. 71 So a minimum of three or four centuries separates the Septuagint 
from the earliest possible date for an authoritative edition of the OT. Based 
on the deep-rooted enmity betvveen Jews and Samaritans. and the latter's 
insistence that they alone possessed the perfect recension, the probability 
of a Samaritan effbrt aimed at changing their Pentateuch to conform with 
thejewish Septuagint seems very remote indeed. Clearly the best conclusion 
is one of corruption in the Masoretic tcxt in those nincteen hundred instances, 
after the 3rd century B.C.E., to say nothing of thc corruptions prior to that 
date which must have been incorporated into the Septuagint. 

K'. Unintentional Corruptions of the Text 

Errors can creep into a text from every conceivable avenue, as even the 
most professional copyist will attest. Most are unintentional. In connection 
with this OT scholars have devised their own vocabulary for the classi- 
fication of these mental lapses. Delvinginto the most common categories 
we find: confusion of similar characters (such as 1 and D, D and n); ditto- 
graphy (accidenta! repetition); haplography (accidental omission when a 
character is present as a doublet in a word); homoioteleuton (omission 
when two words have identical endings and the scribe skips from the first 
to the second, omitting everything in between); errors due to vowels, and 
severai others.'-' When perusingcontemporary research for details regarding 

/0 ibid, p. 46. \'ersion symbols have been translated and are plnced inside $quare 

' ' For a total of 72 translators. 'Septuagint' translates to The Version of the Seventy' 
and is commonly dcnoted as LXX [Dictionan of the Bible, p. 347]. 

72 Wurchw«in, pp. 108-110. 

244 TH ti H ISTOKY O l' T H K QL R W X K : T KX I 

ccrtain abcrraiions in old fragmen ts, i t is not at all iiniisual to find (Ih* 
contemporary author invoking homoiotck-uton (for examplc) lo dispd 
any notion thal ihc error was dclibcrale 011 ihr scribc*s pan: ihis may bc 
prolfercd as a polen tial cxp)anation oven i f thc same oniission is presoni 
in oli icr impori ani nianuscripls. 71 

i>. No Ojialins Ivll in Ali ering lho Tesi whcii l hero 
Appcarccl to bc Adeqtiate Doctrinal Reasons 

We shoiild bc more concorned witli inU'iilional alleralions however. as 
ihcy air naiurally far more serious. Unlil lho Middle A^cn lho icxt ol' tlu- 
OT was nol yel established,' 4 and "before ilie texi ol' tlu* Old Testamen! 
was officially eslablished, i( was not regarded as unalterablo".' ' Thercfore 
the seribes and transmilters woukl oceasionaily malu.' dclibcrale alleralions 
which, rcgardless of their intentions, served in a verv real sense tocormpt 
the original text. Parallel manuscripls demonstrate t hai not even ihc Mas- 
oretic texi, intended to safeguard thc OT from furiher changes, was immiine 
to (his phenomenon.'" 

Yel tlic ivsioralioii ol' thc cari y tratliiional lcxi. rccoiiM meliuk ;in<l 
prescrvmg il cvcii where u was open to crilicisivt, is only one of thc 
niarks of (ral)binic) occupaiion wilh thc [Masorrlir} lcxl. A seeondmark 
rrvtals an opJMisile lendeiiev. There is clenr eridence thal im ijiinlms iwvjell in 
allering Ihe lexl when there ajipeared lo be adeyaate doctrinal reasons. ' ' 

\Vhal weie some of these pressing doctrinal rcasons? Oceasionaily they 
were merely linguistic, changing an esoteric word into a more coinmon onc. 
Other times they involved ihc removal of religiously oll'ensive wording. or 
(mosi scrious of all) lho insertio» of oonain words lo chanipion onc possiblo 
inicrpretalion of a verse over all olhers.'"Jcwish iradilion preserved a pailial 
record of these iextual alterations in notes kiiovvn as ihe Tk/tpoif .wft/icrim and 
ihc lllurv suj>hvrim,''' which imist ol conrse l>c rolalivcly lalo works. 

7:1 Sfc Wliiiliivciii, p. 154. 
''' Scc lliis work p. *24(i. 
'■ r ' W'iitlhwciii, p. III. 
'« ibid, p. III. 
77 ibid, p. 17. Italics added. 
7,1 ibid, pp. 111-112. 
n ibid, p. 17. 


a) The Tiqqum sopkerim catalogue some of the textual revisions carried 
out for doctrinal reasons. One Masoretic tradition, for example, 
mentions eighteen positions where the text was altered to remove 
"objectionable expressions referring to God". 80 

b) The Iliure sopherim catalogue some of the various words in tlie original 
text vvhich were deliberateiy omitted by scribes. For instance, the 
Babylonian Taltnud (Md. 37b) names five passages vvhere certain 
words in the text are to be skipped over, and another seven passages 
where particular words are to be read even though they are not in 
the original. 81 

V\'e can scarcely err in regarding the evidence of these tradhions as 

mereiy a small fragment of a far more extensive process. 82 

n. No Single Authoritative OT Text Existed Till 100 C.E. 

Some manuscripts from Qumran (source of the Dead Sea Scrolls) are quite 
close to the Masoretic text as finaliscd in the Middle Ages. 

But despite all the superficial similaiities there is onc decisive diflcrence: 
the Qumran text of the Masoretic cype was only otie of scveral diflerent 
types in conimon us'e... and there is no indication that it was regarded 
as more authoritative than the others. VVe may infer that for Qumran, 
. and evidently (br the rest of Judaism as well, lliere was nol yel a single 
'authoritative texl. ei 

Only diiring the ensuingjewish revival did onc of these text types gain 
prominence, eelipsing the others that had remained in cireulation prior 
to the first century C.E. In faet, the Qumran caves contain three distinet text 
types: the Samarkan Pentateuch, the Septuagint, and the Masoretic text. 
Wiirthwein states that the last of these three must have risen to authority 
sometime between 70-135 C.E., 84 though this conclusion is based on the 
erroneous dating of several caves in Qumran and Wadi Murabba'at, as 
I shall explain in pp. 252-6. 

80 ibid,p. 17. 

81 ibid,p. 18. 

82 ibid,p. 18 

83 ibid, p. 14. Italics added. 

84 ibid, p. 14. 

d d 

246 TH L l L I STO KY u i- n l J : <^u R ' A N IC T I ;XT 

vii. Jewish Scholars Established thc Text of the OT in thc 
Tenth Century, Aclively Destroying Earlier Manuscripis 

Jcwisli rc'!»uIatioiis rer|iiiivd thc dcsiruciion of wo'in iiucl dcfcciivc 
manuscripis. And wheit scholars had linally established the tcxt in thc 
tenth century, all oider manuscripis wkkh represented earlier slages of ils 
devehpmenl were natumlly amsidned drfectm, and in the emirse <if time 
they dis;ippeared. ,ir ' 

'l'hc establishmcnt of a singular iexi typc in lho lOth century coincides 
with thc introduelion of the. Masora ihc- syslom tif vuwel signs an<l iicmii 
markings uscd as a chcck againsl furlher scribal crrors. This sysk'iu, altmg 
with the destt uetion of 'dcfectivc' iiianuscripts, could more casily bc implc- 
mented once the majorjewish colony in Babylonia {thc liastern schools of 
Sura, Nehardea, and Purnbcdttha) had lost its signiiicancc and disappeared 
by the lOth and 1 lth centuries. 

Once again the West assumed thc spiritual leadership of Judaism, and 
the Western Masoreles soiigkl to tliniiiiate all Iraees uj texlual tiaditiuns ihat 
dijferedfrtsm tlieirowti. Thc vicws of thc (Western] school of Til>erias bccanie 
determinative for thc futtirc, and thc Easicm tradilion was forgotten 

These' pivotal Hcbrew manuseripts from thc lOth and 1 lth centuries, 
incorporating the Masora and finalising the text type for all future gener- 
ations, are exceedingly rare; they number only thirty-one, and mosi are 
fragmentary. 87 

mi. The Masora and Textual JiUegriiy 

With the appointment of one particular text type as superlativc to all others, 
the textual freedom previously observed had to be replaced with stringeney. 
Wurthwein comments that such was the funetion of tlie Masora, and quotcs 
Rabbi Akiba's statement that, 

"Thc Masora is a (protcctivc) fence abotit thc Law," This was the 

purpose of the seribes' meticulous work. They counted the verses, words, 

1,5 ibid, p. 1 1 . Italics added. 
8l > ibid, p. 12. Iialics added. 
» 7 See this work p. 238. 


and letters of the Lavv and other parts of the Scriptures as a procedural 
aid in monitoring manuscripts and in checking their accuracy. BS 

Rabbi Akiba's statement is not entirely clear: certainly the counting of 
verses and letters was impractical in his time (c. 55-137 C. E.), and most 
likely did not become feasible until the iate 9th and early 1 Oth century, when 
the Masora system made its first actual appearance. Wurthwein himself 

We should therefore assume that when the consonantal text was estab- 
Iished ca. a.D. i 00, it did not result in the immediate suppression of all 
other forms of the text, but that manuscripts with variant texts continued * 
to circulate for a long time, especially in private hands. The impressive unti? 
of tenth-cmtury and later manuscripts is due. . . to the work of the earfier and 
later Masoretes who championed the established text and assisted it to 
victory over ail the variant forms of the text. 89 

It should be clear from Wurthwein's own words that this impressive 
unity of text was achteved in the lOth century C. E. and later, not in the 

first century C. E. 

6. Thejewisk Revival: a Legacy of Istamic LUeraty Advancements 
i. Pointing and Vocalization Induced by Islamic Achievements 

In the mauer of vocalization.-.there was no written tradition of symbois 
[/'.c. diacritical marks, or 'pointing'] for indicating the pronunciation or 
intonation of a text. It is not known when pointing originated. 9 " 

Initial claims that it was founded in the oth century C.E. have novv been 
discarded. Noting that the Babylonian TaJmud contains no references to 
pointing. Bruno Chiesa piaces the date between 650-750 C.E. But in this 
he assumes that the Babylonian Talmtid was completed around 600, vvhich 
amounts to little more than personal guesswork, and ali he can really infer 

88 Wurthwein, p. 19. Wurthwein quali(ies himself in the footnote: "It is not 
certain, however. whether in Rabbi Akiba's statement (Pirqe Aboth 3:13) the word 
'Masora' refers to the activities of textnal transmission, as it is usually understood.... 
R. Akiba would mean that the Tradition of the Fathers (the Oral Law) was intended 
to prevent the \iolarion of the Written Law." [p. 18, footnote 24}. 

89 ibid. p. 20: emphasis added. 

90 a* p. 2 l 



is ihai pointing bcgan aftcrwards, nol aiiy sort of precisc duralion. lndccd, 

thc Dktionary of the Bibk suggesis 500, whilc Neusncr maintains iliai ihc final 
ediling of only four paris (out of six) was finislicd c. 700. Basing ilic start 

of pointing on the completion of the Babylonian Talniud is thcrcfore hope- 
less. Moshe Goshen-Goltstein, 

assumcs a timc around A.D. 700 as probablc. He beitcves thc invcntion 
of vowcl signs and acccnis was induccd by thc Islamic conqucsts whirh 
thrcatcncd to cxtinguish thc trudiiion of precisc liiurgieal rcciiation," 1 

That vowels werc invented as a rcaction lo the threat of Islamic invasion 
seems silly; it is far more probable that they vvere invented based on thc 
Arabic vowel system, which was coming into widespread recognition at the 
tirne due to the spread of Islam. 

Eventually from thc seventh century A.D. a system of vowel signs 
written above and below the consonants was adopted, palkrned perhaps 
afiet Syriac usage. This system was'called *|)oiiiiing,' l'rom ilic Jewish 

technical term. 92 

I deliberated this point at length in Chapter i0.' ,:l Despite an active Uni- 
versity in Nisibis, along with colleges and monasteries established since 450 
C.E., the Syrians failed to invent diacritical marks until 700 C. E. Moreover 
Hunain b. Ishaq ( 1 94-260 A.H./8 1 0-873 c.r..), thc father of Syriac grammar, 
was a student of one of the pupils of the famous Arab grammarian al- 
Khalil b. Ahmad al-Frahidi{100- 170 A.H./7 18-786 C.E.). This compelling 
sequence shows pointing to be a Muslim invenlion which was adopted by 
the Syriacs and, from them, by the Jews. 

The date at which the vowels were attached lo the consonants of the 

Hebrcw text can be delermined only witlun broad limits. Ncitbcr the 
Talmud {c. A.D. 500) nor Jerome (a.)>. 420) knows anything about the 
written vocalization, CD. Ginsburg sa)-s that introduetion of the graphic 
signs took place c. A.D. 650-680 and that the work of the Massoretcs 
was complete about a.d. 700.' J4 

Though I have reservations about thc accuracy of these dates, I must 
note that they (as suggested) correspond perfectly with the dawn of Islam. 

S1 ibid,p. 21. 

92 ibid, p. 22; italies added. 
9i See this work pp. 143-5 
94 Dktionary of tlie liible, p. 972. 


One major concern nevertheless lies in the aauracy of the pointing system, 


more than a millenntum separates the Masoretes of Tiberias from the 
days when Hebrew vas a living national language, and it is altogether 
probable that the pronunciation of Hebrew had undergone some 
change in this interval, especialfy considertng that it was written with- 
out vowels... It would seem necessary; then. to expect a fair nurober 
of artificia] forms in the Tiberian system, related to the Masoretes' 
desire to produce a correct pronunciation vhtch made them susceptibk 
to suck outside influences as Syriac and Islamic philology?* . . 

H. Masorctic Activity Flourished in the West Under Islamic Influence 

Masoretic activity flourished again in the West m the period A.p. 780- 
930, evidently stimulated by Karaite influence. . . A new Tiberian system 
was creaied, based on the expmence of the Paiestinian system, vvhich 
combined the accent system with a means of indicating finer nuances, 
and could represent the pronunciation and intonation of the biblical 
text in its minutest details.'-"' 

If the Karaite' 1 ' movement, a sect that emerged in the shadow of Islamic 
Civilization and under its influence, was the stimulus behind the ereation 
of this Tiberian system, ive can conclude that the entire idea was derived 
from Muslim literary praetiecs. Usage of elaborate diacritical marks in the 
Qur'an (to represent the correct intonation of each word) in faet predates 
tlie rise of this Tiberian system by over one hundred years. w 

95 Wurthwem, pp. 26-7. Italtcs added. 

% W p. 24. 

9 ' According to Y. Qojman \QamSi 'Ibri-'Arabi, Bcirut, 1970, p. 835] 'this is ajewish 
sect that believes only in Torah ivhik discarding Talmud.' 

98 Islamic influence over Jewish society was not limited to a handfui of deveSop- 
ments however, but svas the catalyst for an enormous revival touching all aspects of 
Jewish culture. The floweringof Medicval Islamic eivilisation in many ways facilitatcd 
the evolution of Judaism into the religious culture that exists today. Synagogue traditions 
and rituals, along with the legal framev-ork govcrningjewish life, were all standardised; 
comerstones of Jewish philosophic thought, including Sa'adya's Book of Beliefs and Opinions 
{c 936) and Maimonides' Guide to the Perplexed{\ 190), were also written at this time. See 
Norman A. Stillman, The Jews of Arab Lands: A History and Source Book, The Jewish 
Publication Society of America, Philadelphia, 1979, pp. 40-4 1 , where the author quotes 
multiple Jewish sources. 


iii. The Talmud and Islamic Influence 

Thirtecn centuries after the Exodus, rabbinical literature struggled to fiil 
the need for an explanation of the Scriptures while simuhancously attempting 
to climinatc the pandemonium caused by the inultitudc ol" Mislmahs i» 
cireulation. It was Rabbi judah ha-Nasi's redaetion, r. 200 C.E. (as further 
amended by his pupils and a few unknown individual*) which evemually 
supplanted all olher collections. w The Talmud contains this Mishnah at 
its core, adding to it further commcntary and cxplanation. 

Hcncc the Talmud is considered, at least by orthodoxjews, as the highest 
authority on all matters ot' faith ... The commcnts and cxplanations 
declare what Scrtpture means, and without this ofllcial explanation 
the Scriptural passage would lose much of its practical valuc for the 
Jew . . . It is, thcrclbrc, hardly an exaggcration to say that the Talmud 
is of equal authority with Scripture in orthodox Judaism. 100 

Two Talmuds, the Palestinian and the Babylonian (with the latter enjoying 
greater prominence) were composed, but the exact date of completion 
remains highly contentious."" We are given 400, 500, 600, and 700 C. E. 
as anehoring dates for the Babylonian Talmud, which (if anything) implies 
lack of certainty and evidence, thoiigh if Neusner's dates arc valid then 
the completion of this final ediling occurrcd in Islamic Iraq under the 
auspices o\'Jujh. In faet commentary on the Mishnah appears to have been 
ongoing - a process which had not desisted even by the 1 3th cenlury C. E. 
- with Muslim culture apparently playing an extensive role in this Jewish 
endeavour. In the words of Danby: 

For scvcral centuries after the Moslcm conqucst Babylon continued to 

be the chief centre of rabbinical learning... Contact with Arab seholars 
served in some measure as a renewed stimulus, and the ninth and 
tenth centuries saw the beginning of the philological and grammatical 
study of the Hebrew literature; and it is Hai Gaon who is responsible 
for the earliest extant commentary (in the ordinary sense) on the 
Mishnah ... He deals alinost entircly with linguistie problems, and in 
his searchfor derivation of obseure words he makes much use of Arabk. ,m 

Maimon ides ( 1 1 35- 1 204), one of the great ligures of the M iddle Ages, 
wrote in early manhood an introduetion and commentary to the enttre 

99 DkliwMry of the Bibte, p. 954. 
'<» ibid, p. 956. 
11)1 See this work pp. 247-8. 
102 H. Danby (trans), The Mishnah, Introduetion, pp. xxviii-xxtx. Emphasis added. 


Mishnah. It was composed in Arabic under the title Kitab es-Siraj, 'The 
Book of the Lamp'. . . Noi content with explaining details he endeavours 
a!so to keep before his reader the general principles governing the 
subject of study, so removing one of the chtef difficulties in the way of 
understanding the Mishnah. 103 

To extract the general principles relating to a subject is to utilise Usul 
al-Fiqh (Principles of Jurisprudence). This is the established Islamic meth- 
odology for religious studies, which Maimonides clearly appropriated. From 
these examples we are made aware of a great discrepancy between what 
Western scholars allege and what, in fact, actually took place: Muslims 
are often accused of borrowing shamelessly from the Christians andjews, 
and even the Prophet Muhammad, when he is not being taken to task for 
'stealing' from Biblical sources, is cast as a fictitious character based on 
Rabbinical prototypes. In reality the Jews and Christians both benefited 
heavily from the ad%"ancements of Islamic methodology and culture, using 
these to inspire their own future achievements. 

7. Establishing the Dakfor a Fbced, Authoritative OT Text 

i. Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls: The Western View 

Certainly the most significant Biblical event of recent times has been the 
discovery of manuseripts at Qumran and Wad! Murabba'at, near the 
Dead Sea, starting in 1 947. Several centuries older than any material which 
scholars previously possessed, and coming from an era when no single 
form of the text was considered absolutely authoritative, these manuseripts 
have generated a frenzy of interest. 104 Progress has been made, to the satis- 
faetion of most Biblical scholars, concerning the authenticity and age of 
these documents. The Qumran cave is closely associated with the setdement 
of Khirbet Qumran, which was razed in 68 C. E. during the First Jewish 
revolt, and archaeological examination of relies found in the cave places 
them roughly within this period; for examp!e, a piece of linen has been 
dated \ia Carbon-i4 to somewhere benveen 167 B.C.E. and 233 C.E. Ex- 
cavations to the site have thus concluded it most probable that the manu- 
seripts in Qumran were deposited during this First Jewish revolt of 66-70 
C.E. 1 " 3 

103 ibid, p. xxLv 

104 Wurthwein, pp. 31-32. 

105 >Mp-31. 



The second set of caves, in WadT Murabba'at, have thcir owii history. 
This tale begins in the autumn of 1 95 1 , when Bedouins discovercd four 
caves in an area almost twenty kilometres south of Qiimran. Subscqueni 
excavations revcalcd that "the caves had bccn inhabitcd repeatedly Ironi 
4€00 B.C. to the Arabian period". 1 "" Several of the documcnts found within 
indicalcd that thcsc caves had served as refuge for itisurgcnts during the 
Second Jewish revolt. Fragmented scrolls of the OT were uncovered in 
these caves as well, though the seript was more advanccd than that found 
in Qumran; in faet, the text in these scrolls was very akin to that of the 
Masora (/.«. the text type that eventually displaced all others and formed 
the basis for the OT as it exists today). 107 Western consensus holds that 
these manuseripts "may be dated with certainty at the time of the [Second 
Jewish revolt] (a.d. 132-135)".'"" Among'thc finds is the Minor Prophcts 
scroll which dates (according to J.T Milik) from the second century C.E., 
though the seript is so advanced that it even bears "strikingsimilarities to 
the seript of medieval manuseripts... The text is in almost compiele agree- 
ment vvidi [the Masoretic text type], suggesting that an authoritative Standard 
text already existed in the ftrst half of the second century A.D."" 19 

Having highlighted Wiirthwein's own contradietory remarks, in which 
he continually shifts from proclaiming the Wadi Murraba'at scrolls as auth- 
oritative to stating that no authoritative tcxt exisied till the lOlh century 
C.E., in this next seetion I will focus my arguments against the validity of 
the Ojjmran and Wadi Murraba'at iermina daimu,' w presenting tlic necessary 

u. The Counter View: The Iermina Dalum of 
Qumran and Other Caves is Falsc 

Western seholars claim that where the recovercd fragments disagree with 
the Masoretic text, they must have been deposited in Qumran prior to 
the First Jewish revolt (66-70 C.E.), since that is when the nearby town of 
Khirbet Qumran was decimated by Roman troops. Fragments agreemg 
with the Masoretic text come from the cave at Wadi Murraba'at, which 
was sealed afier the Bar Kochba (Second Jewish) revolt in 1 35 C.E. Thus 

»'<> ibid, p. 164. 

107 ibid, p. 31, Ibotnoic 56. 

108 ibid, p. 31, footnote 56. I have yet lo fmd the reasoiiing behind this 'certainty'. 
'O» ibid, p. 164. 

1 Ml The 'terminal dates', signifying the cm-off jx>ints after which no furthrr |iiirchmcnls 
were deposited in thcsc caves. 


the implicatton is that the cexi of the OT vvas standardised somewhere 

But the ver>' basis for this conciusion is false, as we can discern from 
the following two poincs: 

• The caves were never made inaccessible, for the obvious reason 
that a young Bedouin discovered the scrolls without any digging. 
The Bedouin in question, Muhammad Dhi'b, vvas fifteen at the 
time and either a shepherd or a smuggler, venturing off in search 
of a lost sheep 01 whilst taking shetter from the rain. Joined soon 
after by his friends, their cursory exploration yielded sight of the 
Dead Sea Scrolls; they had no recourse to any shovels or axes (let 
alone more sophisticated gear), but their hands proved sufftcient 
and they visited the cave more than once, to retrieve all the parch- 
ments. It may even be that they entered the cave barefoot. Though 
the caves were supposedly sealed in 135 C.E., this in no way implies 
that the site was inaccessible given how easily and coincidentally 
the scrolls were discovered. Wilh this in mind we can conclude that 
the scrolls could have been deposited at any time, and that the 
suggested terminum datum of 135 C.E. 111 has no legitimacy. 

* Reviewing a book titled Discoveries in tltejudaean Des'erl,' '-H. Shanks 
writes that two of tlie authors (Cross and Davila) believe one of the 
Genesis fragments they studicd came, not from Qumran as they 
were originally'informcd, but from WadI Murabba'at. 

Cross and Davila base their suspicious not only on a paleo- 
graphical analysis of the script, but on the fact that the Seather 
is coarsc and poorly p'reparcd, unlike tlie Qumran manuscripts. 
Davila tclls us that the Bedouin may have inadvcrtcntly mixcd 

up this manuscript with their [Qumrnn] finds."' 

This suspicion is furthered by a recent Carbon- 1 4 test of an artefact 
(a piece of linen) supposedly taken from Qumran, but which the 

test reveals came from WadI Murabba'at, leading Shanks to wonder, 
"What else did the Bedouin mix up?" 1 " 

111 See VVtirthwem, p. 164. 

112 E. Ulrich, F.M. Cro»s, J.R. Davila, N. Jastram, j.E. Sanderson, E. Tov and J. 
Stmgnell, Discoeeries in thejudaean Desert, Vol. Xil, Qumran Cave 4 - 17/; Genesis to Numbets, 
Clarendon Press, Oxford, »991. 

1 13 H. Shanks, "Books in Brief", Bibiical Arckaeelogv Review, Sep./Oct. 1995, vol. 21, 
no. 5, pp. 6, 8. 

"+ ibui,p.8. 



Conclusively proving which scroll belongs to which cave therefore becomes 
extremely difTicult. Archaeology is not a precise science, in that a great 
many things can easily be interpreted one way or another. 115 Additionally, 
difierent methods of carbon dating do result in conflicting conclusions 
(sometimes varying by centuries), so the reliabiiity of such tests cannot be 

Yet the greatest problem one faces in dating these caves is the existence 
of Arabic fragments which were fbund in the same cave of VVadi Murraba at, 
or very close by (one hesitates to acccpt in good faith which fragments 
come from which caves). Of these Arabic fragments, moreover, one has a 
clear Hijra dating of 327 A.H. (938 C.E.; sce Figure 1 5.2)."* The fragmeni 
reads:' 17 

Cfir^i £- fc-J j** o~i «^ Hy~» 

Figure 15.2: An Arabic fragmentfound in a cave in iVadl Murraba'al wilh a, 

clear Hijra dating of 327 'A.H. /938 c.E. Source: Eisenman and Robinson, 

A Facsimile Edition of the Dead Sea Scrolls, vol. I, plale 294. 


This translates to: 

In the Name of Allah Most Gracious Most Merciful. I have coilected 
from the inheritors of Abu Ghassan the taxes which were due on the 

115 Fbr a detailed analysis of this subject, induding dozens of test cases, look for my 
forthcoming book Islamic Studies: Whai Melhodolagy? 

116 R.H. Eisenman and J.M. Robinson, A Facsimile Edition of the Dead Sea Scrolls, 
Biblical Archaeology Society, Washington, DC, 1991, Vol. I, plale No. 294. l'br more 
sampies refer to plates Nos. 643-648. 

117 Mahmud al-'Abidi, Makkfutdt al-Bahr al-Mi&U, 'Amman, Jordan, 1967, p. 343. 



Sanun propeny. totalling one-third and one-eighth of one dinar for 
the year seven and twenty and chree httndred. VVrittcn by Ibrahim bin 
Hammaz in the month of Rabi" al-Awwal of this same year, and I 
have placed my faith in Allah. 

A total of seven Arabic fragmen ts have been reproduced in the FacsimiU 
Edilion of the DeadSea Scrolls; the one above is the most iegible and complete, 
At least five other Arabic fragments, one of them of considerable iength, 
were fbund in the W'adl Murraba'at cave but vvere not seen fit by the 
authors for inclusion in this edition, aithough they have been reproduced 
elsewhere. 118 

Whatever the explanation for these Arabic fragmen ts*may be - that 
the caves were never properly sealed, or were sealed but rediscovered over 
ten centuries ago, or that portions vvere sealed and others were not - the 
fact is that absolutely none of the OT fragments can be pigeon-holed 
definitively into one of the two goldcn periods of 66-70 CE. and 1 32- 1 35 
c.E. ,l!> This sheds liglu on J. T. Milik 's statement conceming the Minor 
Prophets Scroll, that "there are even striking similarities to the script of 
medieval manuscripts.'"-" If an Arabic fragment from the lOth century 
C:. E. lay withtn these caves, what would have prevented someone from 
depositing OT fragments in any century up to and including the tenth as 
well? Excavations from the 1950s already eoncluded that these caves 
were "inhabited repcatediy from 4000 B.C. to the Arabian period", 1 "' 1 so 
unless the impiication is that Jews wholly abandoned these caves from 
135 t:.E. to the 20th. century, even as Medieval Muslims enjoyed access to 
them, then the prcmisc for assigning dates is utterly void. VVhat conceivablc 
proof is there that nojews entered the VVadi Murabba'at in 351, or 513, 
oreven 700 C. E. P 1 -" 

1 "' ihid, pp. 342-346. 

11<J The parchments takcn from Qumran, whidi.on oceasion ditler considerably 
from the Masoretic text. were wriuen by mcmbers of the Esscnc communily. This was 
a monastic order that sought to praetice the sirictesl Judaism, bclicviug for cxample 
that "the bowels must not perform their wonted funciions" on the Sabbath. [Didionaiy 
of theBible, p. 268.] The eventual disappearance of this order means that all the material 
from Qumran vvhich follous the textual varian ts preferred by the Essenes, must have 
been seribed whilst the order was still altve, On the other hand, the VVadi Murabba'at 
lexts coincide more or less with the one text type that is still current, and so could 
have possibly originated at any point up until the Middle Ages. 

!'-« See WOnhwem. p. 164. 

I - >I ibid. p. 164. 

'-- This b quite possible. since "some Jewfeh groups had cominued to Uve in Palestine 
probably right through the Moskm domination". [Dictionary of the Bibk, p. 720.) 



The preliminary assessment of some scholars, such as Oxford's Prof. 
Driver, initiaUy dated the Dead Sea Scrolls to the 6th/7th ccnturies C.E. 
before others vvrenched this back to ihe lst/2nd ccnturies C.E. m And by 
no mcans is this an uncommon phenomenon: a fragment of Le\ittcus taken 
froiti Qumran, and writtcn in Old Hebrew seript, caused great conster- 
nation among scholars concerning its date of origin. Suggestions ranged 
from the 5th to the first century B.Ci.i:., with ihe final consensus being that 
it could be as recent as the first century C.E., thus giving this fragment a 
total breathing space of six hundred years.' 24 Analysis of this sort sulfers 
from subjectivity on a massive scale. Based on the concrete evidence above, 
the contention that the OT text was standardised bctwccn 70-135 G.ll. is 
completely unsustainable. 

8. Some Major Exampks of Deliberate Textual Corruption 

Let us examine a passage in the OT which I believe illustrates a very eariy 
deliberate corruption, specifically, Ghapter Scventcen of Genesis. Abraham's 

wife, Sarah, gave him her handmaid Hagar "10 be his wifc", and from her 
was born his first son Ishmael. Wc pick up the story thirteen years laten 

Genesis \7 (hing James Version) 

\ And when Abram was nmcty years old and ninc, ihe Lord appcared 
to Abram, and said unto him, I am ihe Almighty God; walk before 
mc, and be thou perfect. 

2 And I will inakc my covenant betiveen mc and liter, and will nutiliply ihec 

3 And Abram fell on his and God talkecl with him, saying, 

4 As for ini', hebohi, my eovetiant is with ihee, ain I d ion sli.ili be a 
father of niany nations. 

5 Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name 
shall be Abraham; for a father of inany nations havc I made thee. 

6 And I will makc thee exceeding fruhful, and I will inakc nations of 
thee, and kings shall come out of thee. 

7 And I will eslablish my covenant belween me and thee and thy seed after thee 'm 
their generaliaru for an (Berinsting covenant, to Im* a God unto thee, and U> 
thy seed after thee. 

8 And 1 will givc unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, ihe laticl wherein 
thou an a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an cvcrlasling possession; 
and I will be their God. 

"2- 1 See M. al-'Abidi, MaklUutal al-Baht al-Mayyit, pp. 96, 101. 
12-* Wiirthwein, p. 160. 


9 And God said unto Abraharn, Thou shalt keep my covenant there- 
fore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations. 

1 This is my covenant, wkkkj* shall keep, between me andjeu and thy seed after 
thee; Every nian child amongyou shall be circumcised. 

1 1 And ye shall circumcisc the flesh of your fbreskin; and it shall be a 
token of the covenant belwuct me andyou. 

1 4 And the uncircumeised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not 
circumcised, that sou! shali be cut ofT from his'people; he hath broken 
my covenant. 

15 And God said unto Abraharn, As for Sarai thy wife, thou shalt not 
cali hei name Sarai, but Sarah shall her name be. 

16 And I will bless her, and give thee a son also of her: yea, I will bless 
her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of people shall be of 

17 Then Abraharn felt upon his face, and laughed, and said in his 
heart, .Shall a child be bom unto him that is an hundred years old? 
and shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear? 

18 And Abraharn said unto God, O that Ishmacl might li\e before 

19 And God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou 
shall call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an 
everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him. 

20 And as for Ishmacl, I have heard thee: Bchold, I have blessed him, 
and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve 
princes shall hc beget, and I will make him a great nation. 

2 1 But my covenant will I establish with Isaac, which Sarah shall bear unto 
thee at this set time in the next year. 

22 And hc Icft ofT talking with him, and God wciit up from Abraharn. 

23 And Abraharn look Ishmael his son, and all that were boni in his house, 
and all that were bought with his money, every male among the men 
of Abraham's house; and circumcised the flesh of their foreskin in the selfsame 
day, as God had said unto him. 

25 And Ishmael his son was thirtcen years old, when he was circumcised 
in the flesh of his foreskin. 

26 In the selfsame day was Abraharn circumcised, and Ishmael his son. 1 - 1 

The objective reader will diseern a problem with this narrative. God 
pledges, confirms, and reassures Abraharn repeatcdly about His covenant, 
the symbol of which is cireumeision. Now the only son Abraham had at 
that time was Ishmael, a boy of thirteen, and father and son were both 
circumcised on the same day. Regardless of whether he bears this stamp 
°r not hosvever, Ishmael is thrown entirely out of the covenant - and for 


Emphasis added. 


no fathomable reason. God throws a boy out of His covcnant against His 
Own dictates. 

Returning to Genesis, in 1 7: 16-2 1 Abraham is given tlic glad lidings that 
Sarah shaLI have a chikl named Isaac "al this set lime in ihe nexl year '. But 
in Chapter 18 we read: 

10 And [the Lord] said, l will certainty return unto thee accordtng (o 
the timc of life; and, to, Sarah thy wife shall havc a son. And Sarah 
heard it in the tent door, vvhich was behind him. 

1 1 Now Abraham and Sarah were old and wcll strieken in age; and it 
ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women. 

1 2 Thcrcforc Sarah laughcd within hcrsclf, saying, AAcr I ani w uscd 
old shall I have pleasure, my lord being otd also? 

!3 And the Lord said unto Abraham, Whcrcfore did Sarali laugh. 
saying, Shall I of a surety bear a chikl, whirh ani old? 
14 Is any thing too hard fbr the Lord? At the timc a|>|>ointed I will. 
returii unto thee, according to the timc of lile, and Sarah shall have a 

The news was a tremendous shock for Sarah, who was so taken aback 
thal shc burst into laughtcr. But this same diseussion had taken placc in 
the prcvious chapter: "And God said, Sarah iby wile shall bear thee a son 
indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac; and I wili establish my covcnant 
with him for an cvcrlasling covcnant, and with bis seed after bini." W' the 
lutiTative bears out then Sarah bad no Ibr asionislimcnl in ihc nexi 
chapter. That she rcally had no prior knowlcdge of this incident esiablishcs 
a strong case for the deliberate inlcrpolation of lliese verses in Genesis 1 7, 
which seek to dismiss Ishmael from God's covcnant regardless of whether 
or not he is cireumeised. 

Let us turn our atiention to Josephus. Earlier he deseribes Ishmael as 
being the first son of Abraham, then suddenly ciaims Isaac as the legitimate 
son of Abraham and his only begotten. 1 * On what basis does Isaac become 
tlic legitimate son to the exclusion of Ishmael? Does thal imply Ishmael 
being illegitimate, and (by extension) Abraham being aduherous? Jose- 
phus' intenlions are not clcar, but what is rlcar is thal he mirrors the 1 's 
aversion of Ishmael - an aversion which rears tts head in a fcw other 
verses as well. In Genesis 22:2 we find: 

And [the Lord] said, Takc now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom 
thou Iovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and ofler him there 
for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tcll thee of. 


Josephus, Antu}., Book 1, Ch. 12, No. 3 (215), and Book 1, Ch. 13, No. I (222). 


How is it possible for Isaac to become the only son, when Ishmael was 
at Ieast thineen years older? 'Most beloved' one could comprehend, but 
the two ob\"iously do not equate. And if this verse implies that Isaac is the 
only worthy or legitimate son, because Ishmael's mother was a slave, then 
what about the twelve sons of Jacob, all of whom have the same status as 
progenitors of the twelve tribes of Israel, regardless of whether they were 
born of v.ives or coneubines? To my mind this is another obvious ease of 
textual corruption within the OT, perhaps motivated in no small measure 
by the Israelite hatred of Ishmaelites. Nowhere is this animosity more glaring 
than in Psalms 83, a fevv verses of which are rendered here from the Rerised 
Standard Version: „ 

1 O God, do not keep silence; do not hold thy peace or be still, O God! 

2 For lo, thy enemies are in tumult; those who hate thee have raised 
their heads. 

4 They say, "Come, let us wipe them out as a nation; let the name of 
Israel be remembered no moro!" 

5 Yea, they conspire with one accord; against thee they make a covenant- 

6 the tents of Edom and the IskmaeUtes, Moab and the Hagrites, 

7 Gebal and Ammon and Amalck.... 

1 3 O my God, make them like uhirling dust, like chafi" bcfore the wind. 
1 7 Let (hem bc put to shame and dismayed for ever; let thein perish 
in disgrace. 12 ' 

Could Jcwisli seribes, bearing such historical hatred towards the Ish- 
maelites. have shown generosity (or even fairness) towards Ishmael himself 
in transmitting the OT tcxt? Or would they have niade him out as an 
'unbegotten', an inferior, and in the process raised the rank of their own 
ancestor Isaac if the opporiuniiy aflbrded itself ?'-" Such possibilities deserve 
serious attention. 

Being cast out of the covenant was not only Ishmael's lot howevcr, but 
also that of half of Isaac's family, as can be scen by the inclusion of 'Edom' 
in verse 6 above. Based on the OT Isaac had twin sons: 121 ' (a) Esau (or 
Edom!. who was born from the womb first, and (b) Jacob, who is the rec- 
ognised ancestor of the twelve tribes of Israel. 

Curiously, Jacob managed to cheat his brother twice: first when he 
refused him red lentil soup unti! Esau had rclinquished his rights as first- 

127 Emphasis added. 

128 Once again I quote WurthueuVs The Text of The Otd Tesktment. "There is elear 
evidence that no qualms were feli in akering the text when there appeared to be 
adequate doctrinal reasons," p. 17. 

129 Genesis 25:23-26. 



born, though he was in dangcr of collapsing from hungcr;' :i "sccond, whcn 
Jacob and his motlicr sloli* the blessing iliai was moani lor Esau by (boling 
Isaac in tlic dai km \ss, in a schcmi' involving a (uli i»f 1iike liair sineo Esau s 
hands vvere hairier thun his brother 's. 1 " Dcspite ihis trcachery. Jacob's 
descendants were to bccome the sole progeniiors o(" (he tribes of Israel 
while Esau's children vverc lo havc no sharc. 

The Israeiites were conscious (hai the Edomites were iheir ncar kinsmen 
and an older nation... [The enmily bctween Esau and Jacob] is an 
actual refleelion of lho hostilc iclaliom ol' ihc Kdomilcs anti Israeiites. 

for which (he latter were to a considerable degree respoiisiblc. tK 

Wilh this hisiorical cnmity at play, i l is perhaps no surprisc (hai God s 
final words to Moses skip over the names of Ishmael and Esau: 

Moscs, this is the land I was tatking al)out whcn I solcmnly pi'omised' 
Abraham, Isaac, and jaeob that I would give land to their descendants. 
I havc lot you sco. it, bui you will not omss thcjoidan and g<> in. 1 " 

Al the first stage Ishmael was e.vpclled from lho covenant, on the prt*tcx( 
thal God had qualilicd His plan so as to includc all of Abraham's progeny 
through Isaac only. Subsequently even this did nol hold truc, since a full 
half of Isaac's progeny was deprived and oustcd from the covenant through 
the efforts of Jacob, who thus managed to secure the covenant for himself 
and his twelve children - vvhether born of wives or concubines. 13 ' This 
casting out of Ishmael and his progeny, and Esau and his progeny, appears 
to be a systematic fabrication emanating from souvces that were strongly 
partial to only Jacob and his descendants. 

If one argues that the covenant is the mercy and gift of God, ihen He 
possesses the full right to bestow it wherever He pleases and exempt who- 
soever Hc pleases. But these exemptions of Ishmael and Esau do not fit 
God's Own edict: "And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, 
the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an ever- 
lasting possession."' 35 The historical faet is that 'aji the land of Canaan' was 

'30 Genesis 25:29-34. 

'" Genesis 27 

' •« Dictiomry of the Bibit, p.229. 

■*3 CEV, Deuteronomy 34:4. 

1 ** Eight of the twelve children were bom to his two wives and another four were 
born to his two concubines. For details, see this work p. 214. 
135 Genesis 17:8. Italics added. 


not ruled by the Israelites for more than 250 years, beginning from the 
time of Da\id (r. 1 000-962 B.C.E.) and ending with the surrender of Samaria 
and the fail of the northern kingdom of Israel (721 B.C.E.)- God's promise 
of an everlasting ownership cleariy goes against historical reality in this 
case. One has to discard either God's proclamation or the interpolated verses 
which banish Ishmael and his progeny. And if we choose to discard the 
latter then God's promise .will have been fulfilled. since Canaan has always 
been in the possession of the chiidren of Abraham. 
A brief passage from Genesis 1 3 furthers this idea: 

14 And the Lord said unto Abram, after that Lot was separated from 
him, Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where ihou art 
northward, and southward, and easnvard, and wesrward: 

1 5 For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy 
seed for ever. 

16 And I will make lhj> seed as the dus! of the earth: so that if a man can 
number the dust of the earth, thcn shall thy seed also be numbered. 13fi 

This passage, and a similar one in Genesis 1 5, place additional weight 
against the interpolated verses of Genesis 17. Throughout history there 
havc been far fewer Jevvs than Arabs, the descendants of Ishmael, so that 
the appellatton 'dust of the earth' cannot be used to describe only them. 
History compels us to view the exptilsion of Ishmael from God's Covenant 
as a deliberace distortion fuelled by prejudice. 

9. Conclusion 

In the numerous centuries that lapsecl bctween Moses' aseent to Mount 
Sinai and the eventual standardisation of a Hebrevv text, by nothingshort 
of a miraele could the tcxt have been preserved free of errors, aherations, 
and interpolations. Indeed, every facet of Jewish history seems to proclaim 
that there never was any such miraele. We can easily observe that the political 
situation in Palestine, cven diiring the presence of a united Jewish state, 
was not at all favourable for the proper and sanctified propagation of the 
OT; rarely did a king bestow any affection or devotton on k, with the 
majority ereeting idols instead and some even carrying out pagan rituals 
of child sacriftce ek. On top of all this the text itself disappeared repeatedly, 
and for centuries at a time. 

The foundations of Jewish literary and religious culture were themselves 
derivative of other soeieties, causing further infiltration into the OT from 


1 Genesis 13:14-16; emphasis added. See also Genesis 15:3-5. 


thc very outset of Israel ke hislory. For examplc: (a) the Hebrcw languag,- 
was borrowed Ironi thc Pliocnicians; (b) thc Jcws did not dcvclop their 
own script, appropriating it instcad from thc Aramaic and thc Assyrians; 
(c) thc diacrilical system of the Hebrcw Torah was borrowed l'rom lho 
Arabic; (d) the Book of the Covenant (roughly E\odus 20:22-23:19) was 
possibly adapted from the Code of Hammurabi, and so o». 

The text itsclf remained fluid till thc lOth ccntury c.ii., ncarly 2300 
ycars after Moses' death: fluid in that it remained open to alterations 
given sufficient doctrinal justification. And once thc chaugc was complctc, 
the original became 'defcctive' and was destroycd, climinating all iraccs of 
a trail which might otherwise have led back to somethirtg older and more 
intact. • 

Turning our attention towards the Qur'an, we note the verse: 

q ^»a^ c^c ,'^jJ- t* jjT '^Jy\ *JX\ j^ji <->£& iiiT # 

Tkose whofolbw the Messenger, Ike unlettered Prophet, wkom Iheyfind 
menlioned in their own [Scriptures], ia the Torah and the Gospel... 
which cxplicitly statcs that even thc corruptcd tcxts of thc Old and New 
Testaments contained elear references to thc fortheoming prophet. Such 
rcfercnccs were seen by many of the Prophet 's Companions and sueccssors, l:M 
but have since then becn largely clcansed. 1 * 

1 will end this chapter with two interesting quotes: 

The ccntral myth of classical Judaism is thc bclicf that the ancient 
Scriptures constituted divine revelation, but only a part of it. At Sinai 
God had handed down a dua] revelation: the written part known to 
one and all, but also the oral part preserved by the great scriptural 
heroes, passed on by prophets to various aneestors tn the obseure past, 
and finally and most opcnly handed down to the rabbis who. created 
the Palesttnian and Babylonian Talmuds. l ' H> 

With [the Qumran] material at their disposal, experts eoncerned with 
the study of the text. . . are in a j>osi(ion to prove that U has remained 

virtually urichanged for the last two shousand ycars. 1 "" 

137 Qur'an 7:157. 

'38 For details see lbn Kathir, Tafsir, iii:229-234. 

139 Though there are still a few traces left. See Yusuf Ali, Transtation of Holy Oat'an, 
footnote of 48:29. 
'*> J. Neusner, The Way of Torah, p. 8 1 . 
1 4 1 Gcza Vermes, The Dead Sea Scrolls in Knglish, Pelkan Books, 2nd edition, 1 965, p. 1 2. 


In light of the OT's history, as we have seen, the above statements are 
nothing more than the most wishful of choughts. 

There is much that we can contrast in these paragraphs and pages 
vvith the Muslim reverence for the Qur'an, though the aJert reader will 
undoubtedly have done so already, and there will be yet more food for 
thought when we turn our gaze next to the NT. 


Chapter Sixteen 


The Trinitarian bclieves a virgin to be the mother of a son who is her 
maker. ' 

Proving the existence of a historical Jesus is almost impossible; there are 
Christian theologians who are novv content with a Jesus based on faith 
rather than an actual historical figure, 2 So I will starc dus chapter with the 
question, did jesus exist? And if so, what evidence do we have from non- 
Christian sources (the same 'revisionist' criterion that is invoked byjudeo- 
Christian scholars against Islam)? What do some of the Christians say 
about Jesus? This will shed coosiderable light on how little is knonti about 
him and on the confusion that reigned in early Christian circles. Also, what 
was his original message? Was it irretrievably lost in its early stages or was 
it preserved incact in an inspired book? Thcse are some of the questions 
and topics I hope to cover in this chapter. 

1. Did Jesus Exist? 

The first fundamental issue we must pose is whether Jesus truly was a real- 
liie figure. Muslims unequivocally believe in Jesus' existence, of his birth 
from the Virgin Mary and his role as one of the most sublime prophets to 
thejewish people. Some Chrbtian scholars though are much more hesitant 
of Jesus' historicity. 

During the past thirty years theologians have come incrcasingly to 
admit that it Is no ionger possible to write a biography of [Jesus] , since 
documents earlier than the gospels tell us next to nothing of his lifc, while 

the gospels present the 'Kerygma' or proclamation of faith, not the Jesus 
of history. 3 

1 B. Montagu (ed.), The IVorks of Fmncis Bacon, VVilliam Pickering, London, 1831, 

2 Bultmann as quoted b>- G.A. WeUs, Did Jesus exht?, 2nd edition, Pembenon, London. 
1986, p. 9. 

3 G.A. Wells, Did Jesus e.tisl?, p. L 


i. References to Jesus in Non-Christian Books from the First Century 

The writings of thejewish historianjosephus (c 1 00 C.E.), which cover the 
period up to 73 C.E., do indeed contain two passages about Jesus the Christ, 
The longer of these is quite obviously a Christian interpoiation, for it is "a 
giowing description which no orthodoxJew could have written." 4 The second 
passage has been scrutinised by Schuror, Zahn, von Dobschutz.Juster and 
other scholars, and they regard the words "the brothcr of Jesus, him called 
Christ" as a further interpoiation. 5 The lone pagan reference that is still 
commonly cited is Tacitus' statement, 

that Christians 'derive their name and origin from Christ, who, in the 
reign of Tiberius, had suflered death by the sentence of the procurator 
Pontius Pilate-' Tacitus wrote this about A.D. 1 20, and by then Christians 
had themselves come to believe that Jesus had died in this way, l tried 
to show... that there are good reasons for supposing that Tacitus was 
simply repeating what was then the Christian view, and that he is there- 
fore not an independent witness. 6 

u. The Historical Christ in Christian Circles 

So we see that provingjesus as a historical figure using primary sources is 
impossible. Assuming that he did walk the earth, and was a central figure 
in the God-head, then it seems only natural that the Christian communily 
must have preserved alt information regarding him. Like a modern day 
sports figure or international movie star, all titbits relating to him must 
have been collected, preserved, perused and treasured. The reality was quite 
to the contrary. 


The iniluence of Jesus Christ on Western civiiisation is incalculable, and so 
collecting materials about his Hfe and teachings is nothingshort of essential 
for the modern seholar. But this undertaking is wrought with difficuJties. 
Source material is Simited to the New Testament (NT), and more specificalty 
to the four gospels. Because they were primarily written to convert unbe- 
lievers and strengthen the resolve of the faithful, these gospels fail to provide 
much of the crucial historical information sought by biographers. The works 

* /U,p. 10. 
i ibid.p. H. 
6 ibid, p. 13. 


therefore open themselvcs np to interpretarion, and interpreters often commit 
ihe mistake of seeing the texts tlirough the filter of their ovvn beliefs regarding 
jesus, finding in the texts exactly what they set out to discover in the first 

These canonica! sources, four gospels and other NT writings, are so 
meagre that they do not allovv the objective compilation of a full biography. 
The life of Jesus vvas in fact relevani only insofar as it furthered Christian 
dogma; with only a handful of gospe! passages ever emphasised in congre- 
gations (as noted by Maurice Bucaille), 8 interest in the historicaljesus was 
at best merely subsidiary. 

Hermann Reimarus, Professor of Oriental Languages in Hamburgduring 
the 1 700s, was the first to attempt a historical reconstruction of Jesus' life. 9 
Before Reimarus, "the only life of Jesus... which has any interest for us 
was composed by ajesuit in the Persian language". 10 It vvas written in the 
latter half of the 1 500s and tailored specifically for the use of Akbar, the 
Moghul Emperor. This biography is, 

a skilful falsification of the life of Jesus in which the omissions, and the 
additiotis taken from ihe Apocrypha, are inspired by the sole purpose 
of presenling to the opcn-minded ruler a glorious Jesus, in whom there 
should be nothing to oficnd him. !i 

The dubious nature of this work did not stop it from being translated 
into Latin a eentury later, by a theologian of the Reformed Church who 
■ wanted to discredit Catholicism. 12 And so the first attempt at a biography, 
written a full sbcteen centuries after Jesus walked the winding alleys of 
Jerusalem, was nothing more than a historically invalid missionary text 
which became another pawn in the doctrinal wars between Catholics and 
Protestants. Even subsequent scholars faiied to compose a viable biography. 
After the loss of the original gospel," no successfui efibrt appears to have 
been made in the two thousand years of Christianity to compile a historical 
overview of Jesus. Robert Funk describes the case as follows: 

' Dictionary of the Bibit, p. 477. 

8 Maurice Bucailfe, The Bibk, The Qm'an and Science, American Tnist Publications, 
Indianapolis, Indiana, 1978. 

9 AlbertSchweitzer, The Quesi of ihe Historical Jesus, CdHitrBooks, 1968, p. 13. Cited 
ihereafter as Schweitzer. 

10 ibid,p. 13. 

11 ibid.p. H. 

12 ibid,p. 14. 

13 ie. ihe disciples' own writings concerning the teachings of Jesus. See this work 
pp. 279-80. 


So far as I have been able to discover, no one had ever compiled [a] 
iist of all the words attributcd K> Jesus in the fsrsi three hundred ycars 
following his death... Among the many scholarly books- wriitcn on 
Jesus in the last century and more... I could find no crijical list of 
sayings and deeds... [Among my colleagues] no one had compiled a 
raw list... [even thoughj mosi of ihem Iccuirc or write about Jesus 
nearly every day. 14 

After twenty centuries the historical material rcmains so scant that even 

the sketching of a basic outline is problematic, unless one chooses to forsake 
historicity and rely instead on the 'Jesus of faith' as portrayed in the NT. 15 

m. Christ and His Mother-Tongue 

This lack of information is so broad that we are kept in ignorance of many 
of Jesus' most fundamental attributes. If a full list of his sayings has never 
been known to his followers, have scholars at least agreed on what tongue 
these sayings may have been uttered in? The gospels, as well as Christian 
wrilers froiri pasi and presenl, have failcd 10 provide any answer wilh cer- 
tainty. Among the guesswork of early scholars in this regard, vve have: a 
Gaiilaean dialect of Chaldaic (J.j. Scaliger); Syriac (Claudc Saumaise); the 
dialect of Onkelos andjonathan (Brian Walton); Greek (Vossius); Hebrew 
(Dditzsch and Rcsch); Aramaic (Mcycr); and even Latin. (Inchofer, for "the 
Lord cannot have used any other language upon earth, since this is the 
language of the saints in heaven"). 16 

♦ tv. Christ: the Moral Attributes of God? 

Christ is said to be one in tfiree in the God-head. Anyonc entering a church, 

any traditionally recognised church, will immedtately diseern the complete 
absence of two-thirds of this God-head however, with the sole figure on 
display being that of Jesus. The Father and the Holy Spirit have been for- 
gotten almost totally, and Jesus Christ has instead acquired prominence. 
Despite this elevated role his creatment at the hands of some Christian writers 
leaves his legacy riddled with black spots, so much so that it becomes diflicult 

1 4 R. W. Funk, U.B. Scou andJ.R. Uuiis, The I'ambia ofjesia: Red iMn Mtion, Polcbridge 
Press, Sonoma, California, 198H, |>. xi. 
'•'■ fiiillniiiim, ;w wfi'ired [<> l>y (i. A. UWfe. th<l Jr.\ii.\ exi.\/:', p. V. 
1 ■' Schwcit/er, pp. 27 1 , 27!>. 


to accept him as a figure universally beloved by Christians - or at the least, 
as a person whose morality they deem worthy of emulation. 


Speaking of Jesus at the Modern Churchmen's conference at Oxford, 1967, 
Canon Hugh Montefiore, Vicar of Great St. Mary, Cambridge, stated: 

Women were his friends, but it is men he is said to have loved. The 
striking fact was that he remained unmarried, and men who did not 
marry usuaity had one ot three reasons: they could not aflbrd it; there 
were no girls, or they were homosexual iri nature." 


Martin Luther also negates the image of a sinless Jesus. This is to be found 
in Luther's Table-Talk, w whose authenticity has never been challenged even 
though the coarser passages are cause for embarrassment. Arnold Lunn 

Weimer quoted a passage frora the Tabh-Talk in which Luther states 
that Christ committed adultery thrcc times, first with the woman at 
the well, secondly with Mary Magdalene, and thirdly with the woman 
taken in adultery, "whom he let ofT so lightly. Thus even Christ who 
was so holy had to commit adultery before he died." 13 

2. Jesus' Disciples 

Let us discard these accusations now and look into the NT. It is perhaps 
best to commence this diseusston by reviewing some of the events leading 
up to the final days of Jesus' tife (as descrtbed in the four gospels). Being 
works of faith, the gospels endcavour to portray Jesus' inner resilience in 

the most shining light possible, as they necessarily must. Let us inspect these 
seenes to aseertain not the traits of Jesus however, but that of his disciples 
who bore the burden of propagatingjesus' message. Based on their portrayal 
in the gospels we will have a more concrete idea of how the NT views itself, 
for these people are the nueleus through which Christianity bloomed. 

17 The Times, July 28, 1967. 

18 Weimar edition, U: 107. 

19 Arnold Lunn, The Revoll Againsl Reason, Eyre & Spottiswoode (Publishers), London, 
1 950, p. 233. Hcre is the original: "C/irislus adulter. Chrislus isi am enten ein ebrecher worden 

Joh. 4, bei dem brunn eum muliere, quia Uli dicebanl: Memo signi/icat, quid/acit cum ea? Item cum 
Atagdalena, ilem eum adutiemjoan. 8, die er so leklil dauon lies. Also mus derfiom Chnsius aucfi 
am ersten ein ebrecher werdeit ehe er starb" 



Matthcw 26 (Conkmporary English Union) 

20-2 1 Whcn Jesus was cating [ihc Passovcr Mcal] wiih his twclvc disciples 

Chat cvening, he said, "One of you will surely hand me ovcr «o my 


22 The disciples were veiy sad, and each one said (o Jesus, "Lord, you 
can't mean rae!" 

23 He answered, "One of you mcn who has eaicn with mc from this 
dish will betray me."... 

25 Judas said, "Teacher, you surely don't mean me!" "That's what you 
say!" Jesus replied. But later,Judas did betray him. 

31 Jesus said to his disciples, "During this very night, all of you will 
reject me, as thc Scriptures say, 

'I will strike down 
thc shepherd, 
and the sheep 
will be scattered.' 

32 But after l am raised to life, I will go to Galilee ahead of you." 

33 Peter spoke up, "Even if all the others reject you, I never will!" 

34 Jesus replied, "I promise you that beforc a rooster crows tonight, 
you will say three times that you don't know me." 

35 But Peter said, "Even if I have to dic wiih you, I will never say I 
don't know you." All thc others said thc sanic thing. 

36 Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane. Whcn 
tliey got there, he told them, "Sit here white I go ovcr there and pray." 

37 Jesus took along Peter and the two brothers, James and John. He 
was very sad and troubled, 

38 and he said to them, "I am so sad that I feel as if I am dying. Slay 
here and kecp awake with me." 

39 Jesus walked on a little vvay. Thcn hc knclt wiih his facc to thc 
ground and prayed, "My Father, if it is possiblc, don't makc me sufler 
by having me drink from this cup. But do what you want, and not what 
I want." 

40 He came back and found his disciples sleeping. So he said to Peter, 
"Can't any of you stay awake with me for just one hour? 

41 Stay awake and pray that you won't bc tested. You want to do what 
is right, but you are weak." 

42 Again Jesus went to pray and said, "My Father, if there is no other 
way, and I must sufier, I will still do what you want." 

43 Jesus came back and found them sleeping again. Tlicy siinply couid 
not kccp their cycs open. 

44 Hc Icft them and prayed thc same prayer once more. 

45 Finally, Jesus returned to his disciples and said, "Are you still 
sleeping and resting? Thc time has comc for thc Son of Mau to bc 
handed over to sinners.". .. 


47 Jesus was still speaking, when Judas the betrayer came up. He was 
one of the cvvelve disciples, and a large mob armed with swords and 
clubs was with him. They had been sent by the chief priests and the 
nation's leaders. 

48 Judas had told them ahead of time, "Arrest the man I greet with a 

49 Judas walked right up to Jesus and said, "Hello, teacher." Then 
Judas kissed him. 

50 Jesus replied, "My friend, why are you here?" The men grabbed 
Jesus and arrested him, 

51 One of Jesus' foliowers pulled out a sword. He struck the servant 
of the high priest and cut off his ear. 

52 But Jesus told him, "Put your sword away. Anydne who lives by 
fighting will die by fighting.".,. 

55 Jesus said to the mob, "Why do you come with swords and clubs to 
arrest me like a criminal? Day after day I sat and taught in the temple, 
and you didn't arrest me. 

56 But all this happened, so that what the prophets wrote would come 
true." All of Jesus' disciples left him and ran away. 

57 After Jesus had been arrested, he was led oflT to the house of Caia- 
phas the high priest... 

58 But Petcr followed along at a distance and came to the courtyard 
of the high priest's palace. He went in and sat down with the guards 
to see what was going to happen. 

69 VVhile Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, a servant giri came up 
to him and said, "You were with Jesus from Galilee." 

70 But in front of everyone Peter said, "That isn't so! I don't know 
what you are talking about!" 

71 Whcn Peter had gonc out to the gate, another servant giri saw him 
and said to some people there, "This man was with Jesus from Nazareth." 

72 Again Peter denied it, and this time he swore, 'i don't even know 
that mani" 

73 A little while later some people standing there walked over to Peter 
and said, "We know that you are one of them. VVe can tell it because 
you talk like someone from Galilee." 

74 Peter began to curse and swear, "I don't know that man!" Right 
then a rooster crowed, 

75 and Peter remembered that Jesus had said, "Before a rooster crows, 
you will say three times that you don't know me." Then Peter went out 
and eried hard. 


i'. Some Remarks on the Twelve Disciples 

There are two points worth recounting here: 

t . The twelve disciples did receive special teaching and (raining, asjesus 

was probably preparing leadcrs to carry on in his stcad. In Mark, 

however, the twelve hardly understand anything they are taught. M 

2. The picture painted by the four gospcls of jcsus' disciples shows 

several instances of cowardice and ill fortitude, castlng doubt on how 

successfully they, his first followers, modclled their livcs on his. 

If we take these four gospels as an honest depiction of Jesus' life and 

the events surrounding his death, then what we read regarding his disciples 

serves only to undermine the reader's faith in the text, this bcing a portrait 

of Christianity's first line of teachers. I must note ihat thcrc is much external 

evidence to challenge the gospel accounts; 21 this has immediate bearing 

on whethcr the poitrayal of the disciples is inaccurate or otherwisc. Which- 

ever view one subseribes to, that the disciples were indeed incompetent 

(suggesting that Jesus' teachings were compromised in the earliest stages), 

or that they were competent but depieled dishonesdy by succeeding writers, 

the end result is to cast doubt on the gospels' accuracy and hence, their 

coUective creed. 

3. Jesus and his Message: Repent,for the Kingdom of Heaven is at Hand 

Ali sources for the teachings of Jesus emanate from anonymous authors. 
As noted earlier, Hermann Reimarus (1694-1768) was the first to attempt 
a historical modelling of Jesus. In this he drew a distinetion between what 
lies wrkten in the gospels and what Jesus himself proclaimed during his 
lifetime, concluding that his actual teachings can be summed up, 

in two phrases of ideniical meaning, 'Repoti, andbelieve the Gospel,' or, as 
h is pul dsewhcrc, 'Ref>enl,for tlie hvigriam of Heaven is at hand'' 1 

Because he never went on to explain either of these phrases, Reimarus 
argues that Jesus was working and preaching within a wholly Jewish frame- 
work, content with having his audience understand 'the Kingdom of Hcavctv 
in the Jewish contexl. Namcly, that he was the Deliverer of Israel. The 
intention of setting up a new religion never existcd.'- : ' 

w B.M. MclzRer aiul M.l). Cooi,'aii (e<l.), Tlte (hjerd (Jmipaman lo the Hible, ()xft>ixl 
Univ. Press, 1993, p. 783. Citcd thereafter as The. Oxford Compaition in the Hible. 
21 SccClwptcr 17. 

' a Schweitzer, p. 16. llalics added. 
23 ibid, pp. 16-18. 


i. Jesus and the Scope of his Message 

By aiming his teachings at a Jewish audience and expressing concepts from 
within a strictlyjudaic framework, Jesus was clearly limiting his message 
to that sector of society. This is clear from Jesus' statement as recorded in 
Matthew 10:5-6: 

5 These twelve [disciples] Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, 
saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into arif ciry of the 
Samaritans enter ye not: 

6 But go rather to the lost'sheep of the house of Israel. 

It is also plainly stated in the Qur'an: 

And Allah will teach [Jesus] the Book and Wisdom, the Law and the Gospel, 
and [appoint kim] a messenger to the Children of Israel ... 

Some modern Christian scholars also acknowledge this; as Helmut 
Koester notes: 

It is a simple historical fact that Jesus was an Israelite from Galilee, and 

that he understood himself to be nothing else but a prophet in Israel 
and for Israel - a venerable tradition, and he was not the first of these 
prophets of Israel who was rejectcd and persecuted.'-"' 

Koester is not alone: "Jesus certainly thought of himself as a prophet 
(Mark 6.4; Luke 13.33) but there was a final quality about his message 
and work that entitles us to conclude that he thought of himself as God's 
final, definitive emissary to Israel." 26 Luther, Voltaire, Rousseau, and Bult- 
mann are a!I of the same opinion. 

ii. Christian Creeds 

As Jesus never personally defined a message beyond that he was the De- 
Iiverer, the Messiah, so he did not define a specific creed either, and within 

2i Qur'an 3:48-9. 

23 Helmet Koester, "Historic Miscakes Haunt the Relationship of Christianity and 
juda'ism", Biblical Anhaeotogy Review, vol. 21, no. 2, Mar/Apr 1995, p. 26. Koester, a 
Lutheran pastor, isjohn H. Morrison Professor of New Testamenc Studies and Wuin 
Professor of Ecclesiastical History at Harvard Divinity School. 

2| > The OxJbrd Compamon to the BMe, p. 360. 



a few decades this resulted in chaos. The early Eastcrn Crccds indudc "I. 
Epislok Aposlobrum. II. The Old Creed of Alexandria. III. The Shorter Creed 
of the Egyptian Church Order. IV The Marcosian Creed. V. The Early Creed 
of Africa. VI. The Profession of the 'Presbyters' at Smyrna." 27 The earliest 
of these is worth quoting for its shoruiess and simplicity: 

Epislok Apostolonun 


In God the Father Almighty; 

In Jesus Christ, our Saviour; 

And in the Spirit, the Holy, the Paraclete; 

Holy Church; 

Forgiveness of sins. 2 " 

Compare this to the highly verbose Nicene Creed from the fourth century: 

/ believe in one God 

tlu Father Almighty, 

Mnkcr of heaven and earth, 

And of all (hings visible an<l invisiblc: 

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, 
the only-begouen Son of God, 
Bcgoltcn of his Father 
bcfore all worlds, 

God of God, 
Light of Light, 

Very God of very God, 

Begotten, not made, 

Being of one substance with the Father, 

By whom all things were made: 

Who for us men, 

and for our salvation 

came down from heaven (Gk. the heavens), 

And was incarnate 

by (Gk. of) the Holy Ghost 

of{Gk. and) the Virgin Mary, 

And was made man, 

And was crucificd aiso for us 

undtfr Pontius Pilale. 

He (no and) sufTered 

and was buried, 

And the third day he rose again 

2' FJ. Badcock, The History of the Creeds, 2nd edition, London, 1938, p. 24. 
28 ibid, p. 24. 


according to the Scriptures, 

And ascended into heaven (Gk. the heavens) 

And sitteth 

on the right hand of the Father. 

And he shall come (Gk. cometh) again with glory 

to judge both the quick and the dead; 

YVhose kingdom shall have (Gk. of u-kose kingdom there shall be) no end. 

And / believe 'm the Holy Ghost, 

the Lord and (Gk. the) giver of life, 

Who proceedeth from the Father and the Son, 

Who with the Father and the Son 

together is worshipped and glorified, 

Who spake by the Prophets. 

And l believe one 

Catholtck and Apostolick Church. 

/ aeknowledge one Baptism 

for the remission of sins. 

And i look for the Resurrection of the dead, 

And the life of the world to come. 

Amen. 2 '-' 

These two vastly divergent creeds testify that Jesus never truly defined 
his message, or that it suffered distortion in myriad ways, for otherwise a , 
simple statcment of faith wouid not have become infiated into a prodigious 
sermon. The earliest creed lacks any Trinitarian reference, whereas the 
Niccne incorporates Son of God, God of God, and Begotten, all of which 
attests to the ever-changing Christian beliefs regardingjesus during Chris- 
tianity's formative days. 

iii. The Implications of the Term 'Christian' in the Early Days 

In fact, it appears likely that the term 'Christian' vvas merely an invention 
of Roman propaganda, for in the early days, 

the name 'Christian' was associated with all kinds of detestable crime 
- this, too, is a common feature of the political propaganda, and the 
author of 1 Peter. . . admonishes his readers not to suffer for the things 
which for the populace were implied in the name 'Christian,' (4:15) 
e.g. as "a mtirderer, thief, wrongdoer [better malicious magictan], or 
misch ief-maker." 30 

29 ibid, pp. 220-1. Badcock has italicised diflerences from the Greek text. 

30 Dictionary of the BibU,p. 138. 


Tlie early church busicd itself with fighting this 'Christian' appcllation, 
which in Roman minds was equated with a breed of criminals. Esamining 
the origins of this terminology implies that it was the Romans, and not 
the earliest Christians, who vvere eager to distinguish followers of the new 
rcligion from ancicnt Israelitc tradition. 31 

4. The Persecution of Early Christians 

Whilst Judaism was seen as an annoyance, its sporadic efforts at political 
iudeprndnicc invariably cnishod, il was ncvcrlheless lolrraiod t>y ihe Romans 
so long as there was no cuil Ibr a re voli. C i lirisi i. u is sullricd a dilteiviu i 'a u-, 
for while proclaiming their ioyalty to the emperor they "would not par- 
ticipate in the worship in the temples of the gods and were accused of being 
alkeists".* 1 Imperial and public persecution was never more than a step 
away. The intellectual classes even derided Christianity as a superstilion. 
They were viewed as a threat to the Greco-Roman way of Hfe, given their 
scparalion from the rest of society, and because they mainly worshipped 
i n sccrei, "the rcport was curreiil lliai in their conventicles G lirisi ia ns en- 
gaged in sexual promiscuity'V" Still, Christianity had taken root in most 
of the of the Roman Empire by ihe middlo of the 3rd century, 
despite recurrent local persecution and the widespread antagonism of the 

Local persecution eventuaily matured into Imperial policy. The Roman 
Empire was tangibly in dccline by the latter half of the 3rd century, and an 
Imperial edict in 249 sought to counteraet this by commanding all Roman 
subjects to saerilice to the gods. Stringent policics were adopted against 
the Christians, who refused to abide by this edict, to the point where all 
altendees of church serviecs were thrcatcned with dcaih. Tlie capture of 
Emperor Valerian by the Persians in 260 brought to an end this round of 
persecutions, and for the next four decades the Church flourished. But in 
303 the tide turned again, with a level of persecution far harsher than any 
the Christians had known before. Hundreds, if not thousands, perished. 
It was the conversion to Christianity of Constantine, an aspirant to the 
throne, which finally secured Roman toieration in 312 and encouraged 
Christianily's rapid spread.* 4 

:il In laci, the early church was contenl to designate llic new rcligion simply as the 
Way, as in the 'Way of the Lord,' the 'Way of Truth,' the 'Way of Salvalion,' and the 
'Way of Righteousness.' [See Dicliormry of Ihe Bib/e, p. 139] 

32 K.S. Latourette, Christianity ihnmgli IheAges, Harper & Row, Publishers, New York, 
1965, p. 32; italtcs added. 

33 ibid, p. 35. 

34 ibid, pp. 32-36. 


5. Praclkes and Belief in Early Chrislianity and its Aftermath 

Confusion regarding the exact teachings of Jesus, coupled with the con- 
tinuous persecution of Christians unti] the early 4th century, resulted in 
a multitudinous array of practices set up under the umbrelJa of Christianity. 
Quoting Ehrman: 

(TJhere were, of course, Christians who believed in only one God; others, 
however, claimed that there were cwo Gods; yet others subscribed to 
30, or 365, or more... Some Christians believed that Christ was some- 
how both a man and God; others said that he was a man, but not God; 
others claimed that he was God, but not a man; others insisted that he 
was a man who had been temporarily inhabited by God. Some Chris- 
tians betieved that Chrbt's death had brought about the salvation of 
the world; others claimed that this death had no. bearing on salvation; 
yet others alleged that he had ne.ver even died. 

Qj the origina! collection of Jesus' teachings, was drowned by other 
competing influences while the new religion was still in its infancy. 36 The 
texts that subsequently emerged in Christian circles, fiil this void, 
began to acquire the status of Scripuire. As the staggeringly dissolute reams 
of theology attempted to discover the basis for their beliefs in these Scriptures, 
various sects - holding vastiy different views on the life of Christ - played 
their parts in mending and moulding the texi, each aiming to achieve its 
own particular theological vision. 

The Otthodo.K Church, being the sect which evemually established su- 
premacy over all the others, stood in fervent opposition to various ideas 
('heresies') which were in circulation. These included Adoptionism (the 
notton that Jesus was not God, but a nian); Docetism (the opposite view, 
that he was God and not man); and Separationism (that the divine and 
human efements of Jesus Christs were two separate beings). In each case 
this sect, the one that would rise to become the Orthodox Church, delib- 
erately corrupted the Scriptures so as to reflect its own theological visions 
of Christ, while demolishing that of all rival sects. :i; 

35 Bart D. Ehrman, The Orthodox Corruplion of Scripture, Oxford L'niv. Press, 1993, p. 
3. Cited chereafter as The Orihodox Corruplion of Scripture. 

36 Burton L. Mack, The Lost Gospel: The Book of Q& Christian Origins, Harper San 
Francisco, ] 993, p. I - The moniker Q. is dertved from the German Quelle, for source. 
Additional details will be covered in Chapter 17. 

37 The Orlhodox Corruplion of Scripture, p. xii. 



6. Condusions 

Consider these points: that the disciplcs of jesus, according lo the Bible, 

were students of an unccrtain quality; that Q., the original gospel of Jcsus, 
was out-competed by other ideas durtng the eariiest stages of Christianity; 
that a one-timc simplc declaration of faiih was greatly inllated 10 encom- 
pass new theological notions centuries later, protnpted by the lack of any 
distinet creed; that the great diversity of views conceming the nature of 
God-head resulted in the corruptton of availablc lexts for theological aims; 
and that, on lop of this theological chaos, the firsi ihiw centuries of Christian 
history were imbued with persecution. Such a volatile atmosphcrc could 
not possibly havc becn conducivc to the traiismission and prcsen - ation of 
Chrislian Scriplui'e. 

Chapter Seventeen 



Having dealt in the previous chapter with the early history of Christianity, 
we now arrive at the NT itself and ponder a few questions: who authored 
the four gospels? Did they believe their works to be inspired, or was this 
idea developed by later generations? In what ways was the text corrupted? 
And perhaps first of all, how did the nature of these gospels differ from 
Jesus' original teachings? 1 

1. The Lost Cospel (? - A Challenge 

Before the advent of the four gospels we know today, the eariiest followers 
of Jesus composed their own book. In this there were no dramatics about 
the life of Jesus, no narratives concerning spiritual sacrifice and redemption. 
The fbcus was stricdy on his teachings, on the ideas and etiquette and 
behaviour which he expounded, and on the social reforms he called for.-' 
This work is now designated as the Gospel of Jesus, Q. But Q,was not a 
stable text, just as the eariiest Christians did not live in stable times, and 
so over the course of the first century people living under desperate circum- 
stances appended different layers of text to Q. The original layer is most 
striking: it is full of simple, eager words, with no calls for a new religion 
and no hint of Jesus Christ as the Son of God. :i 

The second layer brings a shift in tone, portentously promising doom 
to those who reject the movement. 4 But to my mind the most startling shift 
takes place in the third and final layer of Q., added by Christians during 
the trying period of the First Jewish revolt (66-70 C, E.), under the shadow 
of the Second Temple's destruction by Roman troops. 5 Here Jesus is up- 

' The lengthy quotes I utllise in this chapter, similar to Chapters 15 and 16, are 
(perhaps with one exception) sirictly from Judeo-Christian scholars, so thai once again 
they may reveal their own religion to the reader. 

2 Burton L. Mack, The Losi Gospel: The Book of Q& Christian Origins, p. I. 

3 ibid, pp. 73-80. 
* ibui,p. 131. 

5 ibid, p. 172. 


280 TH R H ISTORV 1>1 ■ T 1 1 i i t±V II ' A N i l ; T liX l' 

gracled from a wisc prophct to the Son of God, heir to Uie Fathcr's Kingdom, 
who successfully battles the temptations in the wilderness. 1 ' 

And so this book too provcd susccpliblc to corruption, a viciini of tlie 
myriad mythologies which began circulating in Christian circles about who 
Jesus truly was. Yet even in this ihird layer there is no call for the worship 
of Christ, no call to honour him as a deity or relain bis memovy through 
rituals and praycrs. There is no crucifixion for the cause of the movement, 
lot alonc for tlic atoncmeitt of all mankind.' Mark, Malthew, and Lukc 
utilised Q_when writing their gospels towards the end of the first century, 
but they wilfully twisted the text {each in his own way) to achieve their 
desired'aims." In atiy casc, Q,as an «tetuai book was soon lost." Tlie tcxts 
which displaced it, dramatic narratives of Ghrist's life, led to a shift in focus 
and helped fuel the mythologies and speculations which have ciouded about 
the figure of Jesus ever since. 

2. The Authorship of the Presenl Four Gospels 

These Jesus mythologies remained in circulaiion both during and after the 
loss of Q, and of the many works inspired by these mythologies only four 
rose to prominence: Matthew, Mark, Lukc and John. Their authors are all 
unknown. In the words of Sir Edwyn Hoskyns and Noel Davey: 

If it has becn found difficult, in spile of a certain amount of cvidcncc, 
to give nanies to the authors of the synoptic gospels, it is much more 
difficult to assign their writing to definite dates. Here there is no elear 
evidence at all; and accurate dating is simply impossible. The ter minus 
adquem must be somewhere alx>ut A.D. 100.'" 

Being the produets of the primitive church, the gospels represent the 
oral tradition of the milieu in which they were conceived, and so will remain 
enigmatie in terms of authorship and date. Hoskyns and Davey argue that 
this uncertainty does not detraet any value from these documents how- 
ever, when they are treated in a seholatiy fashion." But what guarantee of 

6 ibid, pp.82, 89, 173-4. 

7 ibid, pp. 4-5. 

8 ibid, p. 177. 

9 ibid, pp. 1-2. It is only due to tcxt-criiical analysis over the iast century that the 
body of Q_ has been recognised and slowly reconslructed. 

10 Sir E. Hoskyns and N. Davey, Th/ RjAdkoj 'tltejs'ew Tistomml, Fabcr & Faber, London, 
l%3, p. 196. 

11 ibid, p. 201. 


accuracy do wc possess concerning these aiionymous works? If tlic uncer- 
tainty of authorship fails to impact on the importance of thegospcl accounts. 
what aoottt titis itncertatnty of accuracy? Surely this is of tremendous 
doctrinal importance. Bucaille cjuotes the veservations of Fatlwr Kannen- 
giesser. Professor at the Catholic Institute of Paris, who, 

Warns that *one should not take liiernlly" facts reported about Jcsus by 
the Gospels. bccause thcy arc 'uritmgs suited to an occasion* or 'to 
combat,' uhose authors 'are writing doun the traditions of their ouit 
communitv about Jesus.' Concerning the Resurrcction... he stresses 
that none of the authors of the Gospels catt claim to havc been an eye- 
witness. He intimatcs that, as far as the rcst of Jesus's public lifc is 
concerned. the same must be true bccause, according to the Gospels. 
none oi' the Apostles - apart froinjudas Iscatiot - left Jcsu? from the 
moment he first followcd Him until His last earthly mani(estation<. iJ 

These books of uncertnin origin and questionablc accuracy ueiv lator 
accordedgreater authority by the early church ihrougl» the claim that ihcy 
vverc saciecl works inspired by God. to corroborate Christian oral traditions. 

3. Atv lltf (!its[>(h hufnred.' 

lnsptraiion, the idea that (Jod manifcsdv impitri* vision-- or abiVuics or 
rt'wkitions direcily to a person, is a cenual concept of allnionodicistic 
religions. Bttt the NT never claims itsclf t o bc the work <>l ii i spiralmu. 
The sole passage to w!» Uh appeal is matle is 2 Timol hy 'S: lfi. t liat. "Ia c r v 
Scripiure is inspired and usefnl li)t" insiruetion". 'I 'lu* relcivnrc h r re is io 
the OT, howcver. since the NT was not vet compilcd iu the wav wv know 
loday. Elaborating ou this idea. the 'l\w\ cemury wriirr Justin Martyr 
further clarilics that this inspiraiion is attributed nol to ihe aciual Hcbrcw 
text, bttt only to the accuracy oi its translalion imo Grcek.' : 

Christian scholars oflen pepper their writings wiih the irrminulogy of 
'inspiration'; for example P.W. C'omfott States that. "cermin individual*... 
were inspired by God to write Gospel accounts io subslamiatc the oral 
tradition"." And again, seribes copying the NT at a later sutge "tnay havc 

'- Maurice BucailJc, The Bible, The Qur'Sn and Science, pp. -17-48. Thi» exci-lli.nt bouk 
eontains a uealth of information not only abon i scieticc. bui aho .Scriptural and Qin"'fmic 
hsstory - much of which complemciu> the chapters m this book. 

1:5 See Heimut Kocstcr. "What Is ■ And I> Not - Inspired", Bibit Rti'anc. vul. xi. ni>. 
5, October 1995. p. 18. 

1 ' P W. Comfon, Early Manusaipti ts Mader» Tmiislaium! of the M^ Ti\laiiuiit, Baker 
Books, 1990, p. 3. Cited thereafter^s Comfort. 


considcrcd themsclvcs to havc bccn inspircd by thc Spirit i» making ccriain 
adjustments to the exemplar". 15 But thc anonymous authors of the ibur 
gospels might very well have disagreed with Prof. Comfort. The earliest 
gospel, Mark, was scavenged as source material by the later authors of 
Matthew and Luke, who altcrcd, omilted, and abbrevialed many of Mark's 
stories. Such trcaimcnt would never have lakcn place liad tlicy thought 
that Mark was inspired by God, or thal his words were the unqualified 
truth. 18 

Having observed that these claims of inspiration in the NT have no 
Iegitimacy, let us now examine how the Christian community up to thc 
present day has handled these books, and consider vvhether this treatment 
is congruent with what a sacred text deserves. 

4. Transmission of the New Testamenl 

According to Comfort, the gospels were first known in Christian circles 
orally before finding their way to the written page." Not a single book 
from the NT has survived in the original author's handwriting, the closest 
thing being a fragment dated c. 1 00- 1 1 5 and containing six vcrses of John 
18.' 8 

Copies of various books from the NT were made extcnsivcly throngh- 
out the first several centurics, generaJly by non-ptofessionals who rarcly 
checked for errors afterwards. There was litde incentive to check them 
anyway: almost all Christians diiring the first century expected the im- 
pending return of Christ, and likely never realised that they were preserving 
a text for the distant future. 19 After somc timc, the texts in circuiation no 

15 ibid, p. 6. 

16 H. Koester, "What Is - And Is Not - Inspired", Bible Revieio, vol. xi, no. 5, Oct. 
1995, pp. 18,48. 

17 Comfort, p. 3. 

i(i ibid, pp. 3-4. Hcrc I must interjeci that this date is pure guesswork, a subjcctive 
enterprise that can occasionally run with a marginal diflcrencc of decadcs to centuries. 
Among the earliest Greek manuscripts of the NT to actttaily bear a date is onc written 
in the Year of the World 6457 (i.e. 949 C.E.). [Vatican Library No. 345. See Bruce M. 
Metzger, The Texl of the New Testoment, lis Transmission, Corruption, and Restoralion, 3rd 
edition, Oxofrd Univ. Press, 1992, p. 56. Cited thereafteras Metzger.] Notc that the 
manuseript does not contain any Clirislian dace, because the Anno Oomini ("Year of 
the Lord") calendar system had yet to be im-ented. See also this work pp. 238-9, wherc 
the Leningrad Codex mentions a slew of dates, none of them Christian. This rcveals 
that, until at teast the 1 Uh century C.E. (if not beyond), no Christian calendar system 
existed or at least was not in use. 

19 ibid, p. e. 


longer bore strict resemblance to the works which had been originally 
authored, so that any scribe duplicacing a parchment with great fidelicy 
was not necessarily creating an accurate reproduction of the original. 20 
Additionally, "the early Christians did not necessarily treat the NT text 
as a 'sacred' text'V one whose every letter was fixed and holy. They may 
have felt themselves inspired, on occasion, to make alterations to the parch- 
ment that lay before them. M 

Regardless of whether they considered themselves inspired or not, all 
scribal interpolations must be recognised as corruption. 

i. The Creation of Different Text Types 

Scholars believe that the level of divergence (or corruption) within the NT 
text reached its pinnacle towards the end of the second century C.E. Each 
of the principal centres within the early church established its own textual 
variations in the NT, differing from the text found in other localities. Aca- 
demics have categorised these divergent texts into four major text types: 

/. The Alexandrian Text 

The scribes in Alexandria generally shied away from changing the 
substance of the text, preferring instead to make grammatical and 
stylistic modifications. Their manuscripts are considered fairiy accu- 
rate in meaning. 23 

2. The Western Text 

The 'Western' form, hailing from North Africa and Italy, was un- 
chccked and popular. It suffered numerous interpolations at the 
liands of scribes who, forsaking accuracy, enriched the text using 
traditional and even non-biblical material. 2 ' 

3. The Caesarean Text 

This text type was a compromise between the previous two, following 
the Alexandrian in substance while keeping any Western variants 

that did not seem too implausible. 25 

20 m, p. 7. 

21 ibid, p. 6. 

22 ibid, p. 6. 

23 ibid, p. 12. 

24 ibid, p. 13. 

25 Mecger.p. 215. 


4. The Byzantine Text 

Working in Syria during the early 4th century, Lucian of Antioch 
compared various readings of the NT to produce a'revised, critical 
form of the text. For this he relied consistemly more on the Western 
than the Alexandrian tcxt type, and icsorted to harmonisation and 
interpoiation as needed. The end result soon achieved great popu- 
larity throughout the Medtterranean, becoming the favoured text 
of the Grcek Orthodox Church; it underwem further revisions for 
the next four centuries until it was standardised.*' 

So the most widespread of these, the Byzantine, relied heavily on what 
is acknowledged to be the ieast trustworthy of the four, the Western. It 
seems inevitable that Lucian must have incorporated into his text at least 
some of the interpolations, from traditional and non-biblical sources, which 
form a hallmark of the Western type. In faet the overall influence of this 
Western text is baflling; even the originator of the Caesarean text adul- 
terated the relative purity of the AJexandrian with popular elements from 
the Western, though ostensibly awarc of the latter's infertority. 

«. Dates of Recensions 

Recension is the process of serutinising all availablc forms of a document, 

and selecting the most trustworthy among these as the basis for a criticaliy- 
revised tcxt. Nalurally the later the date of the first attempted recension, 
the more likely that the manuseripts being collated will harbour corruptions. 
George D. Kiipatrick of Queen's College, Oxford "declares that by about 
A.D. 200 the great majority of the deliberate changes had been introduced 
into the [NTj textual stream, and that thereafter seribes transmitted the 
several forms of text with great fidelity." 5 ' Modern seholars agrec that 
there is no substantial evidence to prove any recensions even during the 
3rd century. -26 As this indicates that the vast majority of theological alter- 
ations siipped into the text before any attempt at recension, 29 we can say 
that many of these changes have lodged themselves permanently into the 
NT. And as we shall see in the case of the Comma Johanneum, a deliberate 
and major theological corruption was to take place even as late as the 
16th century. 30 

26 Comfort.pp. 13-14. 

27 Mctggcr, p. 177. 
38 Comfiwt, p. '.). 

29 ibid,p. 15. 

30 See this work pp. 290- 1 . 


5. Textual Corruption 

i. Variant Readings in the New Testament 

Greek handwriting in antiquity consisted of two styles. The first was cursive, 
written rapidly and used for everyday afTairs. The second, much more formal, 
was called uncial.* 1 


n iTATier/ <.da> 10 -n > aythoicm r i f» 





mcHAlOYKeANA ^enONT6ClK*„ 





2LT K £. A * KK,e Kc rAf 6cu ch KdyK 

v^.^^ X,K>s|e nHl MOYCAVntlflMCK" 

**£££fencoeNe 5i«kciNTOico 

/•igtt/? /7./: Kutmple of Greek Uncial script. .Yole llml the texl lacks dividers 

betueen adjacent uords. Source: Metzger, The Text of the New Testament, 

p. 10. Reprinled witJt the copyright holder's kind permission. 

In timi 1 the uncial seript began to deteriorate, necessitating a seript- 
writing reform diiring the 9th ceniury C.K. The resulting style was labelled 
minuseule. '•' Thcre are approximatcly 2800 fragmentaiy pieces of the NT 
written in miniscule. and about one-tenth as many in uncial, but if we 
limit ourselves to manuseripts containing the entire NT then the number 
plummets dramatically: 58 in minuseule. and only one in uncial. 33 These 
figures are a cause lor wonder; the number of complete copies in miniscule 

31 Meizgcr, pp. 8-9. 

32 ibid, p. 9. 

33 ibid, pp. 202-3. 


is particularly worrying, given that these manuscripts belong to the period 
between the 9th and the 1 5th centuries. Innumerable generations of Chris- 
tians must have lived and died without even laying eyes on a complete 
copy of their own Scriptures. 3 * 

— » ... ▼ » *« * , • v * 

l^uav-rweoL^a-H-rDo' Tyljt o»l«"f • o-KMj/a»- 

• ** v* • " • • L fc «* 

i\» Uakb'o JS*yotM tuuntuun^Fai'nv 

T» T"»» «V «l' V'" «"P" LoVV-»ICTT*yTt»JV ~ 

<i£>©.|>«r\M>»A9j> «»<*>**' a^TTj^fry ptT<u-rrp\CT 

Figure 17.2: Exampk of Greek Minuscuk script. Source: Melzger, The Texl of 
the New Testament, p. 11. Reprinled with llie cgpyrighl holder's kind permissbn. 

One notable quality of the Greek uncial script was its lack of a separator, 
between adjacent words as well asscnlenccs, cven lhougli sepanti ion between 
words had been used previously in Hcbrcw wrilings, and was therclbre not 
unknown. This flaw resulted in a divergence of meanings or rather inter- 
pretations fbr certain verses. Among ihe most serious examples of this is 
Manuscript p75 (Bodmer Papyrus XIV-XV), M whercjohn 1:18 can bc read 
as eilher an only One, God, or God, tlie only begolkn. There is clearly a profound 
difference in the two choices; whilst the latter implies the existenee of a 

** Of course these tesis were not wriuen in the veniacuhr, so that cvcn the fortimate 
layman who did come across a copy would bc unablc lo bcncfii from it. But 58 complete 
copies in a span of six centuries, and covering the entire Christian world, raises scrious 
questions about the percentage of priests in that era who were privy to a complete 
edition of the very text they were preaching, 

35 This papyrus codex - preserved at Foundation Martin Bodmer (ncar Geneva) - 
with 51 surviving leaves now contains parts of Lukc and John- Each page is written 
in a single column of from 38 to 45 lines with each linc haring 25 to 36 letters. The 
haiulwriting is in uncial script. Il has been daled uround 200 t M'.. 



Trinity, nothing in the former supports any such notion (see Figure 17.3). 
In fact the literal translation is 'a uniqu<? God', though u is never given as 
such. 36 


er-*X*r-r*- e *W*K?3C I 

L. - ._ 

fM* w - ^-' S"'^ u w»+f Fc1««m »l <~r"'? I ^N 


>-iiJirT('.«*K»j*>i.»^fHr«<-*.-7»)!<U .. 

H'r*^j, k "*E^t*«*y*r7i>i'->'|*K*/*'. c r. ; .:'' i ; 

'» ««i'. S**- «Vp. h ■ a ".*?":.- 1 . .. • _. "'S .1. ^ - ■ ■ 

figww 17.3: Manuscript p 7.7 (Bodmer Papynts Xt\-xv) wriuen in, 
showingjolm 1:16-33. Unejive fr»m the top can be Imnslated as either "the Ody Om, 
God" or "God, theordy bctjjittm". Printed willi liib/iotfteca Badmeriana's kind permission. 

Additional divergence canw about lhrou«h mtrntional and unintentional 
alterations in Uie text, cicating uiriums in sonic particulariy sensitive passages. 
Examplcs include: 

• Jalin 1:18. The lino an only One. God or its alternate reading God, the 
only begptlen) has a varian t, the only begrfteit .Voh." 

• John 1:34. The Son of God also has the varian t the chosen One of God. 3 " 

• John 7:53-8:1 1. The entit e story of Jcsus and the adulteress woman 
is, with a single exception. nol present in any Greek manuseript until 
the ninth century - but is now inchided in all versions of the New 
Testamen t due to its fame, though generally ending in a cautionary 
footnote."' 1 

36 Comfort, p. 105. 

37 ibid, p. 105. 

38 ibid, p. 107. 

39 i'Wrf.p. 115. 


• Joh*f6:i6. The phrase the Falher who seni me has a variant, ke who seni 
mt. m 

• John 9:35. Jesus' appellation ihe Son of God has a variant of grealer 
documentary evidence, the Son of nian (a surrogaie term for Messiah). 41 

• Mark 16:9-20. The concluding twelve verses of Mark are replaced 
by a much shorter ending in several manuscripts, negating any ref- 
erence to Jesus' reappearance to his disciples and his subsequent 
ascension. 42 

• Luke 3:22. Tbu are my beloved Son in whom l ain welipleased has a varian t, 
Ibu are my Son; ihis day l have begolteiiyou: i:l 

• Ijike 23:34. And Jesus said, " Falher, forgive (hem, for they do nol know w/iat 
they are doing. "This passage is omitied in severai divcrse manuscripls, 
the earlicsl of these from c 200 < :.K. This vitsc was mosi likdy nevcr 
pari of l.uke's original autograph, and was insencd subsequcnily 
from an oral tradition. But the phrase has proven so popular that 
translators are unwilling to excisc it, resorting instead to a footnote 
about ils absence in various manuscripls. 11 

• Luke 24:6 atid 24:1 2. He is nol kere but is risen and all of verse 1 2 (where 
Peter discovers Jesus' burial clolhes bui no body) are excluded from 
a few older manuscripts. 41 * 

• Luke 24:5i and 24:52. And I Jesus j was carried u f» inlo heaven and they 
worshipped htm are not preseni in certain early manuscripls."' 

u. Scribal Alteralions 

I will suffice with these examples and turn now to the categories of deliberate 
and unintcntional scribal alterations, as classificd by NT seholars. This will 
provide us with a flavour for the range of errors which must be confronted. 
In explaining away unintcntional changes, seholars use psychology most 
skilfully In retracing (he mental workings of seribes who died vvcll over 
ten centuries ago. Astigmatism is blamed for the manuseript in which similar 
Greek letters are often transposed; a momentary wandering of the eye 
explains the deletion or repetition of an entire passage. .Confusion when 

■» «W/, p. 117. 

41 md, p.i i». 

n See this work pp. 297-8. 
« Comfort, p. 89. 
« ibid, p. 101. 
« ibid, p. 102. 
46 ibid, pp. 103-4. 


copying from dictation, mental distractions that cause a change in the 
sequence of words, and even sheer stupidity, are all invoked in solving 
how these blunders came to be. 47 

As with the OT, however, it is the deliberate alterations which are most 
troubling. RW Comfort divides these into seven categories: 

r'. Material taken from oral traditions (such as the passage concerning 

the adulteress injohn 7:53-8:1 1). 
h. Additions meant for liturgical use. 
iii. Additions due to the spread of asceticism (such as the insertion of 

'and fasting' after 'prayer' in Mark 9:29). 
iv. The tamperings of certain sects. (The Adoptionists for example, be- 
lieving that Jesus became the Son of God at the moment of baptism, 
changed Luke 3:22 from "this is my beloved Son in whom I am well 
pleased" to " my Son; this day I have begotten you".) 
v. Alterations due to doctrinal prejudices. particularly as relating to 

the Spirit. 
vi. Harmonisation. 
m. Changes incorporated by scribes vvho feared that readers might 

get the 'wrong' impresston about Jesus. 43 
It is hardly surprising that the textua! critic Origen, speaking in the 3rd 
century, complains about the discrepancy between matuiscripts resulting, 

either through the ncgligence of certain copyists, or the perverse aud- 
acity shown by some in correeting the text. or through the fault of 
those who, playing the part of correetors. lengthen or shorten it as 
they plcasc. 4 '* 

As diseussed previously,™ the Orthodox Church played its own part in 

creating deliberate alterations, ivith a view to countering the advance of 
certain sects which harboured rival notions about the natitre of Jesus (such 
as the Adoptionism. Doceiism, Separationism. and Patripassianism). 51 Every 
group vvas widely suspected of changing passages to make them champion 
its own theological stance,' 2 and vvith every new variant created they hurled 
the original further and further into obseurin - . 

47 Met7ger,pp. .186-195. 

48 Comfort, p. 8. For a detailed study of intentional corniption, see: B.D. Ehrman, 
The Orlhodox Corniption o/ Scriplure. 

4y Comfort, p. 8. 

50 See this work p. 277. 

5' The Orl/iodo.t Corniption of Scriplure, p. xii. 

52 ibid, p. 279. 



. 6. 77« Erasmus Bible and the Comma Johanneum 

Erasmus published his first Grcek NT in 15 16 and thc second cdition thrcc 
years later. Among the most serious criticisms levelled ai this Bible was that 
it lacked the Trinitarian state.ment at thc end of ! John, which reads that 
the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost are three in one (1 John 5:7). In- 
sisling that he had yet to find these words in any of the Greek manuscripts 
he had examined, he nevertheless buckled to pressure and agreed to add 
the Comma Johanneum (as it is known) if a single Greek manuscript with tliis 
passage could be found. Shortly afterwards such a manuscript was indeed 
given to him. In all Hkelihood it was a fabrication, written by a Franciscan 
friar in Oxford around 1 520. Though Erasmus rcmained Iruc lo his word 
and inserted the passage in his third edition, hc felt it necessary to append 
a lengthy footnote, expressing his suspicion that the manuscript was a 
forgery. 33 

Since the time of Erasmus only three Greek manuscripts have been found 
tocontam the Comma Johanneum; the earliest of diese is from the 12th century, 
but has the passage inserted in the margin by a 1 7th centui7 hand. H This 
Trinitarian statement in 1 John is of immense theotogical significance; its 
interpolation into Greek manuscripts so iatc in history (during thc Rcnais- 
sancc) is indicative of an alarming fluidily in thc lt*xi. And what was thc 
falc of these spurious vcrscs? I n thc Englisii lauguagc thcy found thcir way 
into thc AtUlimiwl h'iitji James Version, primed in lfil l;no crilica! rcvisioiis 
lo this popular translation were allempted until 1881. The edition in vny 
library (Authorised Version © 1983) stil! contains this passage: 

G This is hc that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; nol by 

water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth 
witness, because thc Spirit is trulh. 

7 I'br there are three that bear record in hcavcn, ihc Fatlicr, thc Word. 
and thc Holy Ghost: and these thrcc are onc. 

8 And therc are three that bear witness in carth, thc spirit, and the. 
water, and thc blood: and these three agrec in onc. 1 ''' 

Intcrestingiy the Revised Standard Version (RSV) - which is the 1946 revision 
of the 190! American version of the 1881 revised edition of the S61 1 King 
James Version (KJV) - omits some crucial words: 

6 This is he who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ, not with the 
water only but with the water and the blood, 

bi Metzger, pp. 101-2. 

54 tt&,p.'l02. 

55 I John 5:6-8. 


7 And the Spirit is the witness, because the Spirit is the truth. 

8 There are three witnesses, the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and 
these three agree, 56 

The exact chronologies of these various editions are confusing. Never- 
theless \ve can surmise that English translations of the Bible waited at least 
three centuries, if not more, before removing a spurious passage which had 
been inserted as late as the 16th century. 

7. Contemporary Corruption of the Text 

Thus far I have limited myself to briefly discussing the corruption of the 
NT in Greek manuscripts. Perhaps there are those vvho will argue that, 
beginning vvith the Revised Ring James Yersion in 1881, every rnainstream 
edition has sought to purify the Biblical text through critical examination 
of early manuscripts; in other words, that these successive editions are 
approacriing closer to the original Biblical text, rather than moving away 
from it through intemional or unintentional corruptions. This is not uni- 
versali)' the case. Every translation is the labour of a specific time and place, 
and will undoubtedly be affected by whatever social or political issues are 
current in the translator's psyche. Regardless of whether critical study of 
manuscripts is employed, concern over such issues may be sufficient to push 
the final product even further from the original (cxt. 

In an article entitled "The Contemporary English Version: Inaccurate 
Translation Tries to Soften Antijudaic Sentimcnt," Joscph Blenkinsopp 
discusses just such an example: 

The Contemporary English Version of the Biblc (CEV), published last 
year by the American Bible Society. . . is being actively sjwnsored by the 
American Interfaith Institute... as the firse Bible to contain no anti- 
Judaism. The claim is prcsumably based on the retranslating, or in 
some cases the paraphrasing or simply omilting, of certain prejudicial 
allusions tojews in the NcwTestament. 5 ' 

He goes on to cite examples where 'the Jews' has been changed to 'the 
people', 'a great crowd of the Jews' to 'a lot of people', and so on, as well 
as the watering down of 'VVoe to you, seribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! 


56 8SV, Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1952, 1 John 5:6-8. 

57 Bible Reiiew, vol. xii, no. 5, Oct. 1996, p. 42. Italics added. 

58 This is as it appears in the Revised Standard Version, Matthesv 23. 


to 'You Pharisees and teachers of the Lavv of Moses are in for trouble! 

You're nothing but show-ofls'. The translator's aim, he concludes, must be 
to adhere faithfully to the text, not to cajole it into saying what the translator 
wants it to say. w 

Barclay Newman, the CEV's chief translator, responds b)' insisting that 
he and his team were faithful to the intenl of the Greek text. li " 

ln most of the New Testament, 'the Jews' is best understood to mean 
'the other Jews' or 'some of the Jews' or 'a fcw of the Jews' or 'the 
Jewish leaders* or 'some of the Jewish leaders' or 'a few of the Jewish 

leaders'. Never does it refer to the nation as a whole... It was Pontius 
Pilate - the Roman governor - who sentenced Jesus to death! And 
those men who nailed Jesus to a cross were Roman soldicrs. 61 

Denying that the CEV has watered down.anything, Newman adds that 
Jesus' message was mcatu to unitejews and Gcntilcs rather ihan provoke 
antijewish sentiments. A failhful rendkion of the NT requires a scarch for 
"ways in which lalse impressions may bc minimized and haired overcome"." 2 
I n pursuing this goal howevcr, the C/iT'leani oftenercates its ovvn false 
impressions about the Israelites by swinging in the opposite direetion. For 

• The hJV provides this iratislaiion of 2 Chronirlos 21:11-13, 

1 1 Moreover (jchoram] inade high plaees in the moumains of 
Judah, and caused the itihabitants of Jcrusalcm to commit forni- 
cation, and compellcd Judah liierelo. 

12 And ihere canic a writing to hini Ironi Klijah the prophct, 
saying, Thus saith the Lord God of David ihy father, Because 
thou hast not walked in the ways of Jehoshaphat thy father, nor 
in the ways of Asa king of Judah, 

1 3 But hast walked in the way of the kings of Israel, and hast 
made Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to go a-whoring, 

r> -' llilttf Review, vol. xii, no. 5, Ocl. 1996, p. 42. 

w B.M. Newman, "CEV's Chief Translator. We Were Faithful to the Intcntton of 

the Text", Bible Rt-vkw, vol. xii, no. 5, Oct. 1996, p. 43. 

61 ilfid,'p. 43. We must noic that the comrasi hctwecn Newmau's views and that of 
the Talmud could not possibly be more divergent. Israel Shahak wriles, "According 
to the Talmud, Jesus was executed by a proper rabbinical court for idolatry, inciting 
other Jews to idolatry and comempt of rabbinical authority. Ali elassical Jewish sources 
which mention his execution are quite happy to take responsibilily for it: in the Tal- 
mudic account the Romans are not even mentioned." tfewisfi History, Jewish Religioii, 
pp. 97-98.] And as to Jesus' fate, "the Talmud states that his punishment in hell is to 
bc immcrsed in boiling cxcrement." [ibid, pp. 20-2 1 .] 

m liibk Remew, vol. xii, no. 5, Oct. 1996, p. 43. 


like to the uhoredoms of the house of Ahab. and also hast slain 

thy brechren of thy father's house, uhkh icm beuer than thyself. 

Both. the RSVaiid the Jitu.' World Translation ni provide roughly the 
same meaning ("unfaithfulness" and "immoral intercourse" respec- 
tively). I consuited these because the C/rFrendering struck me as 
being so different: 

! 1 Jehoram even built local shrines in the hills of Judah and let 
the people sin against the Lord by worshiping foretgn gods, 
12 One day, Jehoram received a letter from Elijah the prophet 
that said: I have a message for you from the Lord God your 
ancestor David worshiped. He knows that you have not fottowed 
the example of Jehoshaphat your father or Asa your grandfather. 
] 3 Instead you have acted like those sinfu) kings of Israel and 
have encouraged the people of Judah to stop worshiping t!ie 
Lord, just as Ahab and bis descendants did. You evcn murdered 
your own brothers. who were better men than you. 

Omitting the specific references to fornication and whoredom 
seems to have no basis, aside from keeping the reader'sopinion of 
public morality during the time of the Divided Kingdoms from 
slipping too far into the negative. 
Here are two vcrses from Isaiah, taken from the AJI': 

(36:11) Then said Rliakim and Shebna and Joah unto 
Rab-shakeh, Speak, I pray thee, unto thy servants in the 
Syrian language; for we undcrstand it: and speak not to us 
in thejevvs' language, in the ears of the people that are on 
the wali. 

(36: 1 3) Then Rab-shakeh stood, and cried with a loud 
voice in the Jews" language, and said, Hear ye the words 
of the great king, the king of Assyria. 

This same phrase of 'thejew's language' (or 'the language of 
Canaan') can also be found in Isaiah 19:18, 2 Kings 18:26, and 2 
Ch 32:18; that none of these five verses specifically refers to 'the 
Jew's language' as Hebrew seems more than mere coincidence. 64 
Both the jfeiv World Translation and the A^STfollovv roughly the same 

63 JVrtr I Vorld Translation of the Hoh Scriptures, Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of 
New York, Inc., 1984. 

64 A topic covered previously in 232-4. 



phraseology. The CEf however renders ail five instances as Hcbrcw, 
without furthcr annotalion. Of coursc thc CEV is mcaiu for casy 
verbal reading and not textual study, bui that does not cxcuse in- 
correct rcnditions and assumptions (cspccially when thc correci 
phrase is just as simplc). 
♦ In the Gospel of John we find: 

(9:22) [Thc bl inti mati'sj paivms said U lis bocausc they k.uvd 
the Jews, for the Jcws had already agrccd that ir any onc 

shouid confess [Jesus] to be Christ, he was to be put out of the 


This is according to the RSV; in the CEVwc rcad: 

(9:22-23) Thc man's parcnts said this becausc they were afraid 
of thcir leaders. The leadcrs had already agrccd that no onc 
was to have anything to do with anyone vvho said Jesus was the 

Surely if anyone is creating a falsc image hcre, it is the translators 
vvho omit the reference to being 'put out of the synagogue', making 
the passage sound as though thejewish leaders were slightly peeved 
and rcady to rap a fevv knuckks. 
These examples were stumbled upon accidentally in the course of writing 
earlier portions of this book, and naturally anyone givcn the inclination and 
the time would be able to find many additional verses wlierc the translators 
have fostered new falsc impressions. The CEV ia only a rccent test case; over 
forty English translations alone are in print, each bearing its own pecu- 
liarities. For example many evangelists deemed initial editions of the Revised 
Standard Version too liberal; the New Tesiameni in Modem English contains 
unusual wording; the Living Bibk mixes text with interpretation, inserting 
words which makc the text conform'to a fundamcntalist vicwpoint. Most 
Bibles adopt a distinct theological view of Jesus Christ by choosing certain 
readings over others: "a young woman shall conceive" for "a virgin shall 
conceive" (Isaiah 7: 14), "the only Son" for "only begotten Son" (John 1:14, 
18), 'Jesus Christ" for "Jesus Christ, the Son of God" (Mark 1:1), and so 
on. The diversity of riieological implications and meanings found in these 
Bibles - resulting from insertions, substitutions, or omissions, let alone selec- 
tive use of variants - can only be labelled as a corruption of the original 



8. Eariy Manuscripts Negates the Prevalmt Christian Doctrines 

Whether through ongoing corruptions or the elimination of impurities which 
had pre\iously infiltrated the text, the NT as it now stands is often a sharp 
arttagonist of the very Christian doctrines k purportedly supports. To begin 
with, the majority of Christians are only famtliar with the few select pass- 
ages that are regularly read or commented on duririg sermons. As Maurice 
Bucaille notes, "With the exception of the Protestants, it was not customary 
for Christians to read the Gospels in their entirety. . . At a Roman Catholic 
schooi I had copies of the works of VirgiJ and Plato, hut I did not have 
the New Testament." 65 Now we discover that many of these ehoice passages, 
traditional fa\"ourites of evangelists and the bedrock of the average Christian's 
knowledge of his ovvn religion, are in fact spurious or at best unreliable, 
and have either been weakened through cautionary footnotes in contem- 
porary Bibles, or altogether omitted. These passages touch the very essence 
of Christian doctrine. 

* The Trinity. 

We have already discussed at length the 1 6th century interpolation 
of the Cotnma Johanneum into I John 5:7, the statement of Trinity 
concerning "the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these 
three are one." So well-acknowledged is this interpolation that I 
am unaware of any Bible, save the original 1611 Authorized Klng James 
Version, which still includes this passage. The sole remaining Trini- 
tarian passage of any clarity is Matthew 28:19, "Go therefore and 
make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the 
Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to 
observe all that I have commanded you". 6 " Accordingly. 

This late post-resurrection saying, not found inany othcr Gospel 
or anywhere else in the NT, has been viewed by some scholars 
as ari interpolation into Matthew. It has also been pointed out 

65 Maurice Bucaille, The Bibit, The Qur'mi and Science, pp. 44-45. Even though the Bible 
as a whoie is available in 286 languages (at last count), in (his era of mass publishing 
k has achieved the status of a besc-seller that very few actuaily care to read. Despke 
its ubtquitous presence in supermarkets,, on tape, and in pop culture generally, 
only an estimated fifteen percent of those who possess a Bible actuaily read it. [M. 
Abu La vla. "The Qur'an: Nature. Authemicity, Authoricy and Influence o n ihe Muslim 
Mind", The hlamic (htarterly, 4th Quaner 1992, vol. xxxvi, no. 4, p. 235. The author 
quotes Manfred Barihel, H'hal Does Ihe Bible Reallj Saj?, England. Souvenir Press Ltd., 

66 ASI ". Matthew 28: 1 9-20. 


THE H iS'l* ) KY < > I" 'M I K QU R A N K 1 ULX' l' 

that the idea of 'making disciplcs' is eoiuinucd in 'tcacliiiig thcm,' 
so that thc intcrvciiiiig rcfo-rencc lo baptisin wich Us trinitarian 
Ioni m la was pcrllaps a lator insmion illto I lu- sayiiifj.''' 

The Deily ofjesus. 

Whether Jesus ever referred 10 himsclf as thc Soti of Gocl depends 

almost exclusively on Luke 10:22, 

No one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who 
the Father is except the Son and any one to whom the Son 

chooses to revea! him. 

, Thcsc words arc rcpcatcd verbatim in Malthcw 1 1 :27, the reason 
being that Luke and Matthew both lifted this passage out of CV^ 
But these words emanate from the third layer of Q_, the layer added 
by Christians around 70 C.E, S9 Neither of the two earlier layers, in- 
cluding the original Q_as kept by the very first (bllowers ofjesus, 
contains anything about the deity ofjesus Christ. Additionaliy, the 
phrase 'Son of God' is found in the OT under several different guises 
and meanings, none of which imply a direct Sonsliip since that 
would run counter tojewish monotheism. 70 In Jcwish thougiu 'thc 
Son of God' refers lo a mau who bears a moral (raihcr than physical) 
connection to God, 71 and so it is possible that early Christians used 
this appellation for Jesus in that sense, havtrtg been brought up in 
the Jewish tradition. If such is the case then the influence of Hel- 
lenism, in which emperors iiked to view themselves as directly des- 
cended from the gods, may be to blame in switehing the perception 
of later Christians from the idea of a moral relationship to that of 
one directly physical. 

Returntng to the NT, thc KJV's renderiag of i Timothy 3:16 
diseusses the divinky of Jesus in human form: "And withoul con- 
troversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifesl in the 
flesh..." Modern textual analysis has cast this reading into doubt, 
with all current versions opting instead for "He [or Who or Which] 
was manifest in the flesh," Other instances of textuaJ criticism 
weakeningjesus' divinity are Mark 1:1 ("the Son of God" omitted); 

67 Dictumary of the Bibit, p. 1015. 

68 See this work pp. 279-80. 

69 B.L. Mack, The Lost Gospet: The Book of Q_& Chrislian Origins, pp. 89, 1 72. 

70 See for example, Genesis 6:2,Job 38:7, and £xodus 4:22. 

71 Diclionaty of the Bible, p. 143. 


John 6:69 ("Christ, the Son of the living God" to "the Holy One 
of God"); Acts 8:37 (the entire verse, inctuding "I believe that Jesus 
Christ is the Son of God", omitted);" and 1 Corinthians 15:47 ("the 
second man is the Lord from heaven" to "the second man is from 
heaven.") 53 


This refers to the expiation of humanity's original sin by Jesus, for 

those who believe that Christ died for their collective sins. As such 

it constitutes the uitimate display of Iove and sacrifice in Christianity, 

with Jesus interceding for all mankind at the moment of greatest 


Father, forgive thern for they do not know what they are doing. 

Yet this climactic utterance in Luke 23:34 (surely one of the most 
oft-quoted verses in the Bible) is altogether absent from numerous 
ancient manuscripts, the eariiest of these r. 200 C. E. RW. Comfort 
remarks that "rather, it appears that this text was not part of Luke 's 
origina! writing, but was added latcr... from an oral tradition."' 4 
So essential is this verse to the gospel accounts hovvevcr that al! 
publishers include it, inserting an explanatory footnote after- 
wards. 7i Similarly we must notejohn 6:47 ( KJV rendering: "He that 
belie\ ; eth on me hath everlasting life"), where text«al eritique has led 
many modern Bibles to drop "on me" so that the verse no longer 
distinguishes Christ as Redeetner. 

The Ascension. 

None of the four Gospels relates Christ's ascent to heaven after the 
Resurrection with any reliability. Matthew and John both conclude 
without reference to an ascension. Luke 24:5 1 ("and was carried 
up into heaven") is missing from various early manuscripts, '* and 
is therefore often retegated to a footnote. But certainly the strangest 
of all in this regard is Mark, in which the whole of twelve verses 
of Mark i 6:9-20 - including the Ascension - is nonhere to be found 
in numerous manuseripts, Ieavingconternporary Bibles in the clumsy 

72 Comfort believes the verse to be an obvious interpolation [p. 128]. 

73 All examples are taken from the Revised Standard Version. 
u Comfort, p. 101. 

?•> ibid, p. 101. 
« ibid, p. 103. 


situation of having to provide both an extended and an abbivviatcd 
ending, 77 The end result is that not a singie verse explicitly ciling ihe 
Ascension has survivcd tcxtual scrutiny in thc four gospels.'" 

9. Conclusion 

Therc are other examples besides, but the point is clear cnough: some of 
the very foundations of Christian doctrine, supposedly derived from Biblical 
accounts of Christ's life, have either wayward or almost no support in the 
textually revised modern editions of the four gospels. Givcn the multitude 
of essentia! and highly favoured passages thrown out from the hJV, what 
then is thc basis of this ncw, thcologically wcakcned Christianity? And what 
are the basic doctrines and principles to which the Church can stiH adhere 
to today with tenacity? 

Previously we observed that the history of thejewish political situation 
was wholly unfavourable for the preservation of the OT, with mosi of the 
Jewish rulers encouraging poSytheism on a wide scale. The text repeatedly 
disappeared, and after its final discovery (from whatever sources) in the 
5th century B.C. it was continuously subjected to alterations. 

Now we see that history has been no more kind towards the NT. The 
very fount of Christianity, Jesus, is a figure whose hisiorical existence is 
impossible to prove through primary sources. Some of his original teachings 
found their way into Q., only for Q,to sufTer interpolations within a lew 
decades and eventually disappear, under the weight of all sorts of Jesus 
mythologies which soon took hold of Christian circles. Towards the end 
of the first century a fcw biographical works appeared; the authors were 
anonymous, none had any first-hand knowledge of Jesus' life, and none 
disclosed their sources of information. Rival sects emerged, each bearing 
no scruples in altering the necessary verses to strengthen its uniquc vision 
of Christ. Text types developed, diverged, gave birth to new ones, became 
popularised, Recensions commenced, interpolations continued, textual 
analysis began casting out many significant passages. And to this day each 
Bible can carefully choose its variants, its wording, and so arrive at a slighdy 
diflercnt Jesus. 

77 In RSV Mark 16:9-20 havc becii moved to foomotc wiih a rautionary note. 
While in CEV'a is placed between the following two notes (rcspectively) "ONE OLD 

78 The Qur'an however is explicit concerning the ascension (4: 1 58), and so Muslims 
bclieve that Jesus — though never crucified — did indeed asccnd. 



Those who argue that some of Jesus' teachings are still prcsent in the 

gospel accounts niiss the point; namcly, that these words may be present 
in letter but not in spirit. Of what use are edicts concerning charity and love, 
when the entire religion itseif has been subverted from Jesus' original in- 
tentions (as witnessed in OJ to that of the worship of Jesus Christ as the 
Son of God and of salvation through the belief that he was crucified for 
the sins of all mankind? 

We have come very far indeed from the world of isnads, reading certif- 
icates, the lavv of witness, personal contact, the huffa$., 'Uthman's Mushaf, 
and a holy text that has remained unequivocally pure for over fourteen 
centuries. The disparity is midday sunshine versus the darkest shades of 
night, and this contrast fuels the efibrts of those who are accustomed to 
the BiblicaI Scriptures, and who find it inconceivable that another Book 
received far greater care from the Almighty and successfully escaped the 
pitfalls of time. 


An Appraisal of Orientalist Research 



The controversies surrounding Arabic palaeography and Ibn Mas'ud's 
Mushaf having already been dealt with, we r.ow tum our attention to the 
broad spectrum of Orientalist attacks against the Qur'an in their numerous 
otlier forms, oflering a taste of some of the Western efforts aimed at defaming 
the Qur an's lextual purity through the use of profane sources and simple 

I , The jVecessity of Proving Distortions in the Ou/an 

Intent on proving the West's moral and theologicaJ superiority Bergstrasser, 
Jefiery, Mingana, Pretz!, Tisdall, and many others dedicated their lives to 
ftnding withirt the Qur'an all the evils of textual corruption uncovered in 
the eourse of BiblicaI scholarship. As is apparent from the previous chapter, 
countless variations flood the passages of the Bible: "Cette masse enorme 
depasse ce dont on dispose pour n'importe quel texte antique; elle a fourni 
quelque 200,000 variantcs. La plupart sont des variantes insignifiantes . . , 
Deja Westcott et Hort, en donnant ce chifFre, eonstataient que les sept 
huitiemes du texte etaient assures ... II y en apourtant".' Taken together 
they vveaken core issues of theology and raise many concerns about spur- 
ious episodes interpolated into the text through populist influences. While 
the urgency of proving a similar outcome for the Qiir'an has gained fresh 
momentum in the last few years because of the Middle East's shiftmg 
political landscape, efforts in this field have largely predated these concerns. 
Among the historical works are: (1) A. Mingana and A. Smith (eds.), Leaues 
jrom Three Aneient (hirmis, Possibly Pre-'Othmanic with a listof their Variants, Cam- 

A. Robert and A. Feuillet (eds.), Inlroduciion a la Bibte, tome I (lntroduction 
Ginerale, Ancien Tesiamem), Desclee & Cie, 1959, p. 1 H . Roughly, the New Testament 
Has some 200,000 variants, most of whieh are insignificant (such as variations of 
speliings). Westcott and Hort, while giving this number, noted that seven eighth of the 
est vvere assured; vet there are very important variants as well. Interestingly the figure 
°' 200,000 variants was redueed to 150,000 in the English translation of the above 
work [A. Robert and A. Feuillet, Intetpreting the Scriptures, translated by P.W. Skehan et 
al > Desclee Company, NY, 1969, p. 1 15]. See this work pp. 285-90. 



bridge, 1914; (2) G. Bergstrasser, "Plan eines Apparatus Criticus zum Koran", 
Sitztmgsberichte Bajer. Akad., Munchcn, 1930, Heft 7; (3) O. Pretzl, "Dic Fort- 
fuhrung dcs Apparatus Criticus zum Koran", Sitzungsberichk Bayer, Akad., 
Mtinchen, 1 934, HeR 5; and (4) A.Jeflcry; The Qur'an as Scripture, R.F Moorc 
Company, Inc., New York, 1952. 
JefTcry has probably exerted the most effort on this subjcci. 

2. Orientalist Criticism of t/u Qur'an's Compilalion 

There are numerous gateways for an assault on thc Our'anic text, one of 
which is to question its recording and compilation. 2 It is in this spirit that 
Orientalists enquire why, if the Qur'an was indced recorded during the 
Prophet's lifctime, did 'Umar Fear the death of the hujjai on the Yamiima 
battlefields, informing Abu Bakr that much of thc Book might disappear 
with them. 5 Furthermore, why was thc recorded material not kcpt in the 
Prophet's own custody? And if il was, why did Zaid bin Thabit fail to 
utilise it in preparing the Sahufi Reported by al-Bukhari and accepted by 
Muslims, ihese details imply to Orientalists that thc claims of carly dictation 
and recording are false. 

A Iack of knowlcdgc, intentional ignorance (J*^), or a disregard for 
Muslim cducational policies are thc ccntral problems hcre. Let us first 
assumc that there was a copy of the Qur'an in the Prophet's possession; 
why did he neglect to make it available for the perusal and benefit of his 
Companions? Most likely out of a concern that any abrogations, fresh 
revelations, or shifts in verse sequences would not be reflected in this copy. 
In such a case he would be furnishing incorrcct information and doing a 
disservicc to his pcople, its pitfalls outwcighing the bencfits. If this copy 
cxisted, however, why did Zaid b. Thabit neglect it as a resource during 
the reign of Abu Bakr? Earlier I pointed out that, for a document to acquire 
legitimacy, a pupil must act as an eyewitness and reccive it from his teacher 
in person. Whcre no clement of bearing witness was present, coming across 
a deceased scholar's book for exampie, then the value of the text was nuilified. 
So it was with Zaid b. Thabit. In dictating verses to his Companions the 
Prophct was instituting viable transmission routcs bascd on direct tcacher- 
pupil contact; conversely, because he ncver lent any written materials to 
his pupils, no element of witness existed in these parchments and neither 

2 In jelfery's words, "tlie VVcsiern scholars do not consoni that thc arrungcmcnt of 
thc text of the Qur'an which is in our iiands now is the work of the Prophct" [Alasafiif, 
Introductton, p. 5]. HcrcJcITery is referrtng to ihe arrangcnictit of Ijotli surjs and «rscs. 

3 See this work p. 78. 


Zaid nor anyone else could use them as a primary resource for comparative 

Bui if llie eniirc Qur'an had bccn recorded diiring the Prophet's lifeume, 
kcpt either in his cusiody or with various Companions, why was 'Umar 
afraid of losiiig the Qin -> an through the /i«$3£imartyrdom? This once again 
involves the law of witness. 

Numbering in their thousands, the /nj$a£attained Qur'anic knowledge 
through the one relevani authority on earth, the Prophet. After his death ' 
they became the relevani authorities themselves; their deaths threatened 
to terminate the testimony leading back to the Prophet, making the acqui~ 
sition of authorised knowledge impossiblc. So too wottld the verses penned 
by their haiids lose all meril, their owners buried and unable to verify their 
autheniicity. Even if a fragment coincided perfecdy with the Qur'an as 
memorised by others, in lieu of a suitable first-class witness it became at 
best a third-class legal document. That is why in compiling the Suhuf, Abu 
Bak]- insisted that every person bring not only verses but also two witnesses 
to attest that the dietation came directly from the Prophet (we find this law 
of wimess invoked again during 'Uthman's reign). Written verses wouid of 
coiirsc remain on shelves and in cupboards regardless of whether the 
Yamilma soil soakcd up I h c hiij)ii^'.s blood, bui the aulhorily of witness, 
t h; 1 1 esseiuial poin t tipon which the i-ntirc vnltte of every documeni hingcd, 
w;is what 'Lfniiir divaded lorli'iliii!' 

3. 'Transmulnlion of Islam into Foreigti Idioms 

A second gateway for an attaek on the Qur'an is the wholesale conversion 
of lslamic stuelies into Western terminology. In his Inlroduciion to Imw, 
Schacht <li\'ides lslamic jiirispriidcncc into llir followinghcadings: persoti.s, 
property, obligatinns iti general, obligatinns and contraets in particular, 
rit:' This arrangement deliberately iransmutes lslamic I«iw into Roman as it has no relevanee whatsoever with the headings and classifications 
used in the lslamic legal system; the implicalion of course is that it is wholly 
derivative of Roman Law. Wansbrough does the same with the Qur'an, 
dividing his Qurank Sludm along the following lines: Principles of Exegesis 
(1) Masoretic exegesis; (2) Haggadic exegesis; (3) Deutungsbediirfttgkeit; 
(4) Halakhic exegesis; and (5) Rhetoric and allegory, 6 

4 Ri'fi'mni» haek to pp. 90-91 , Sawwiir b. Shablb's hndtih daimu that Zaid compared 
'Uthman s Mushaf with the Prophet's personal copy of the Qur'ao. If it had been his 
persona! copy, kept in 'A'isha's cusiody, then Zaid might have afforded«it a secondary 
status in the course of his endcavours. 

' J, Schacht, .-1» Introduction (o lslamic Law, Oxfbrd Univ. Press, 1964, Cbntents Table. 

6 J. Wansbrough, Qiirank Studies, Consents. 


These exegeses take up over half the book, yet if I were to approach 
any Muslim scholar living in the East or even educated in the West, he 
would not be able to decipher even the table of contents. Ycs, pcrhaps a 
rabbi can decode this OT terminology, but this is akin to placing a rabbi's 
garbs on a Muslim sheikJi, Why this insistence on transmuting Islam, except 
to force it beyond the scope of Muslim schoiars and imply its derivation 
from Jewdsh and Christian sources? 

4. Orientalist Accusations of Appropriation 

This leads us to a third gateway for an assault on the Qtir'an: the recurrent 
accusations levelled against Islam as merely a forgery of Judaism and Chris- 
tianity, a fraudulent offshoot appropriating Scriptural iiterature for its own 
purposes. Wansbrough, himself a firm proponent of this idea, insisted for 
example that "Islamic Doctrine generally, and even the figure of Muhammad 
were modelled on Rabbinicjewish proto(ype," 7 Here we examine the senti- 
ments of two schoiars writing in a similar vein. 

i. Accusations of Botched Appropriation 

In an Eruycbpaedia Britannica(\891) article Noldeke, a pioneer Orientalist, 
mentions numerous errors in the Qur'an due to the "ignorance of Mu- 
hammad" concerning early Jewish history - a supposed bungling of names 
and details which he stole from Jewish sources. 8 Tabulating these mistakes 
he states that, 

[Even the] most ignorant Jew could never have mistaken Haman (the 
minister of Ahasuerus) for the minister of Pharaoh, or identified Miriam 
the sister of Moses with Mary (= Miriam) the mother of Christ.... [And] 
in his ignorance of everything out of Arabia, he makes the fertility of 
Egypt - where rain is almost never seen and never missed - depend 
on rain instead of the inundations of the Nile (xii. 49). 9 

7 See R.S. Humphreys, Islamic History: A Framewerk for fnguiry, Revised edition, 
Princeton Univ. Press, 1991, p. 84. 

8 Sec "The Koran", Encyclopaedia BtHannka, 9lh edition, 1891, vol. 16, pp. 597IT. 
Reprinted in Ibn Warraq (ed.), The Origins of the Koran: Classie Essays on Jslam's //<«>' 
Book, Prometheus Books, Amherst, NY, 1998, pp. 36-63. 

9 T. Noldeke, "The Koran", in Ibn Warraq (ed.), The Origins of the Koran-, p. 43. 


This is sadly another moulding of Islam into foreign vocabulary, for who 
is to say that Pharaoh did not also have a minister named Haman, simply 
because earlier Scriptures fail to mention him? And in his deceit Noldeke 
neglects to point out that the Qur'an refers to Mary (mother of Christ) as 
"sister of Aaron", 10 not Moses. Aaron was the first in line for the Israelite 
priesthood; according to the NT Elizabeth, cousin of Mary and mother 
of John the Baptist, came of a priestly family and was thus "of the daughters 
of Aaron"." By extension we can just as convincingly designate either 
Mary or Elizabeth as "sisters of Aaron" or "daughters of Tmran" (Aaron 's 
father). 12 

What of Noldeke 's accusation regarding Egyptian fertility? The inun- 
dations of the Nile are due in most part to variability of rainfall at its source, 
as any ecologist will attest, but let us put that aside. Verse 12:49 reads: 

4. & hi/^i ***3 ,^»W! vIAju *-j ^lc.«UJ'i JjJ ^ ,jC p £■ 

"Then after that [period] will come ayear in whick the peopk will be de- 
livered, and in wkich they wittpress [wine and oilj." 

I will leave the reader to extract any reference to rain; in fact this accu- 
sation stems from Noldeke confusing the nouns for 'rain' and 'deliverance'. 

U. A Counterfeited Bibie 

This is the charge levcllcd against the Qur'an by Hirschfeld. n If by Biblc 
he refers to the NT, let us recall two of the major doctrines in Christianity: 
Original Sin and Atonement. The former is the automatic inheritance of 
every human, being the progeny of Adam, whilst the latter embodies the 
belief that God sacrificed His only begotten Son as the sole means of 
absolving this Sin. The Qiir'an categorically rejects both: 

"Thereupon Adam received words [of guidance] from kis Lord, and He 
accepled his repen/ance." 

"' Qur'an 19:28. 

11 Luke 1:5. SceatsoLukc 1:36. 

''-' Rcfcr to Yusuf Ali's transliuion of ihc Holy Chir'an, commcntaries for verses 
3::» and 19:2«. 

13 A. Mingana, "The Transmission of the Koran", in Ibn Warraq (ed.), Tlte Origi'is 
of th Koran, p. 112. 

11 OjiiTiii 2:37. 


'Mnrf wlmkver [wrong) any human commits rests upon himself alone; and 
no bearer of burdens shall be mode lo bear anot/ier's burden" 

The Trinity and salvation through Christ, the vcry esscnces of Christian 
doctrine, find only outright dismissal in tlie Qur'an, while the Biblical siorics 
present therein are more a matter of history than ideology. 

,'4 J^i j^lj iiji' jUj jJJ fj ;■;:> iliJl 'M ■£■■ jj^\ 'M 'y, 'Jj # 

16 / ... W - f .* ' ' 

# ^ Oj-I Ijg4^ 
"&»•: H e is Allali, the One and Only; Allah, the Eternal, Absolule; H e 
begels not, nor is He begotten; and there is none like unta Htm." 

So where exactly does this counterfeiting manifest itself? And con- 
cerning appropriations from the OT (as alleged by Wansbrough, Noldeke, 
and others), why should the Prophel seek to emulate a Scripture poriraying 
Yahwch as a Iribal God, affiliatcd not evcn wilh the Samaritans or Edomites 
but solely with Israel? At the very opening of the Book we find: 

"In theMame of Allah, Most Gracious, Mosi Merciful. Praise be to Allah, 

the Cherisher and Sustainer of the Worlds." 

A universal invocation to Allah, cranscending tribes and races and based 
only on the precepts of faith. One cannot pluck such a rich mango from 
the prickly arms of a parched cactus. 

5. Deliberate Distortion of iJie Our'dn 

A fourth gateway is the falsification of the Holy Book itself. We have already 
critically examined Goldziher and Arthur Jeffcry's theories on variaius, 
but there are other notables as well. 

i. Flugel's Attempted Distortion of the Qur'an 

Printing the concordance of the Qur'an in 1 847, Flugel also tried his hand 
al an Arabic text of the Qur'an and succecdcd in conjuring up a prociuct 

lr ' (,WfiiiG:H>l. 
" ; Ofiian 112:1-4. 
17 Our'an 1:1-2. 


tliat is unacceptable to any rcciter. There is a concurrence among Muslims 
lo recite ihe CKir'an accorcling to ihe infiections of any of the seven mosi 
distinguished leciters, 1 " all of whom follow the 'Uthmani skeleton and the 
siinna of tfim'at, the differences manifesting themselves mostly in a fcw altered 
diacritical marks which bear no weight on the content of these verses. Every 
printcd Mushaf is based on one or another of these seven gira'at, foliowing 
it unifonnly from beginning to end. Flugei however used all seven, arbitrarily 
choosing one (jira'al here. and another there (withom any attempt at justifi- 
cation), crcating a mishmash of no validity or value. Even JefTrey (no fricnd 
to Islamic tradition) commented, 

Fliigcl's cclitioi) ivhirh Itas bcrn so widely used and so often rcprintcd, 
is really a very ])oor lext, (bv it ncilher reprcsents any one pure typc of 
Oriental iexi iradition, nor is ilie eclectic icxt hc prinis formed on any 
aseeriainable scientilic basis.'" 

ii. Blacherc's Attcmpted Distortion of the Qur'an 

In ininslating ihe mcaning of (hc CJiit-'an imo Freneh {ls Cormu 1049), 
Rcgi.s H laci U' re nol oiily chanjjcs ilie sura order i n (hc Qitran bu( adds 
t \vo lielilious verses inlo ihe bo<ly of ihe iexi. Hc bases I bis on a spnrious 
narraiion in which Satan inade bis own 'rcvelations* to the Prophet, who 
was apparendy too inept to distingtiish beiween the Words of Allah atid 
the polytheistic mumblings mentioned in the account. None of the trans- 
mission chamiels for recitation and none of ihe 250,000 extant Qiir'5nic 
manuseripts comain these iwo verses which, by themselves, vvholly eontradict 
cveryihing preceding ihem and foliowing them, and in faet the very essence 
of ihe Quran.-" 

Labelled '20 bis' and '20 ltr\ the fake verses arc a call to Muslims to 
"lorilV ilie idols oi' pic-lslamir Malikah.- 1 .See Figttrc 18.]. 

I'his (rnudulcnt repori has proven loo charming for Orientalisis lo pass 
ii p. Re v. Guillaumc's iranslation of Sirat Il»t Ishaq (an early and definitive 
biography of the Prophet) has been published continuoiisly in Muslim 

'" Ki'lcv i<> ttiis work pp. I y.i-5, 

''' A.JcHi-ry. M<il<-ri,il-i. p. 1. 

1,11 li>i- .i (lii;iiliil clJMii^i m ilii> wr 'U ruah I). ii/-/ubiiii; al-Mtiglmzi, pp- "">- 

I 1'), i il pariku la r ihe Ibuiiinli's. 

- [ ( -(nmicrli'il virsi'.. ;im<Ii'. Kl;irhi-r<- (;in«l nllicrs surh ns Rodwell auri Riohard Brll) 
iiliri 1 1 1 n.- 1 iri U r iil MU'a?, in iln -i i irjitslaituMs. c I Ki ilcnj^ii it; aj$im llii' lioliiu-ssol' llii' lesi 
in a comcnii'in way giwn ilie Wtstorn viws rcguirting ilie supposed sflra arrangeniciu 
i n II m M;is'fu!"s Mushaf. 


countries since 1967. In this he resorts to dishonesties too numerous to 
mention; among them is the insertion of two pages from onc of at-Tabart's 
works, in vvhich at-Tabarl recounts this spurious tale for its curiosity value. 
Guillaume never indicates his external quotations clearly, flanking them 
with paremheses instead of setting them apart from the main body of text 
and preceding them with a 'T' vvhich is vigorously employed bin never 
explained. This lengthy narrative (two pages) benefits from the same treat- 
ment,- 2 and haturally the lay Muslim swatiows truth with polytheistic fiction 
and unwittingly accepts the tale as a definitive part of Ibn Ishaq's serious 
historical work, 

86 N" 30 = SOURATE Lltl 

1 9 Avez-vous considere 1 al- 
Lat et al-'Ozza 

20 et ManAt, cette croi- 
, sietne autre. 

20 bis Ce som les Subitmes 23 Ce ne sont que des noms 
» Deesses dont vous les avez nom- 

20 ler et leur intercession est mees, vous et vos peres. 

cenes souhaitee. Allah ne fit descendre, avcc 

21 Avez-vous le MSle et, eHes,aucuneprdbatioo(tt»L 
Lui, la Femelle l {«»). Vous ne suivez que 

22 Cela, alors, serait un votre conjeeture et ce que 
pattage inique ! desirent vos itnes alors que 

24 L'Hommea-t-ilcequ'ii cenes, a vos peres, est ve- 
desire ? nue la Direetion de leur 

25 A Allah appartiennem Seigneur. 
la [Fit] Derniere et 


III. — Les vt. suivaots traiie'ot eux aussi de l'iMeccession «t de l'apuellation, 
Kratnine, en arabe, doanee aui Anges. Par suite de leur assonance, i! a pu 
paraitre natute! de les lier aux precedems. Ils sont ccpendants postirieurs 

30 bis et 20 ter. Le texce de ces deux vt, se trouve daos GdQ, ioo, notc 4 
avec rfferenees et variames; ef. lulred., 342. 

31. Ce n. est edaire par le n» 22 = LU, J9. 

2). y om les avti„. avec tiles. Ces deux pronoms reprisement les ttois divt- 
ottes meotionnc» dan» les vt. 19-20. J Foits ne jiowt.. Au !ieu de cette 
var. canoaique i la Vulgatc porte : ils ne suivent. L'idee est la suivante : « Vous 
£tes actuelleraent daus l'erreur de mSme que vos anceu-es qui, pourunt, eux 
ausst, ont recu i'enseignement dtviit- » 

24. La particule 'a* n'esc pas uniquement adversativc, mais aussi interroga- 
tiue. Elle sous-eotcnd coutefois, d ans ce dernier cas, ut) enoorf qui va contrasttr 
avec une idee precedente. 

Figure 18.1: Blacliere's translalion with the twojictitious verses, iabelkd 
'20 bis' and '20 ter'. 

22 See A. Guillaume, The Life of Muhammad: A Translalion of Ibn IsbSg's Sirat Rasul Alfa 
8th impression, Oxford Univ. Press, Karachi, 1987, p. 165. 



ia. Mingana's Attempted Distortion of the Qur'an 

Prof. Rev. Mingana, held by sorne as 'a great scholar of Arabic', 23 has in 
fact a shaky grasp of the subject at best. Publishing An Importanl Manusaipt 
of the Tradilions of Bukkarp* he commits, in copying only a handful of lines, 
the following blunders: incorrect transcription of ^-^-j . (which he 
transcribes as ^-^j); j> J-^ 1 j*' re& d as y^ j«' ', omission of such words 
as «IjU.; inability to read partial words such as «jWj (which he conveniently 
drops altogether); addition of an extra y, erroneous translation of the terms 
LJ and ul, and so on, Ln a series of errors that can only be classified as 

Figure 18.2: One of the palimpsest leaves used by Mingana. Source: Mingana & 
Lewis (eds.), Leaves from Three Ancient Qurans, Plate Oman B. 

23 Ibn Warraq (ed.), Otigjns of the Koran, p. 410. 

24 Cambridge, 1936. 

31Z 1Mb HlaiuKt ut i nt /Vinil ilvai 

The Traditions of Buk/iM is of course a hadilh compilation, and I nse this 
simply as a test case. Returning to textual variants in thc Qur'an wc find 
that here too Mingana leaves behind a legacy, publishing a work cntitled 
/javesfrom Tliree Ancient Qarans, Possibly Pre-'Othmanic wilh a list of Iheir Varimi(sJ a 
The original manuscript is paiimpsest in vellum: originally containing verses 
of the Qur'an, the ink was subsequently washed off and written over by 
a Christian Arab.'' 6 Making out the initial text is certainly demanding, so 
Mingana showers three pages with infrared light to increasc conti'ast.^ 
See Figure 18.2 above. 

Analysing the leaves, Mingana lists the Qur'anic variants in this manu- 
script aiong with an English translation. It is not difficult to detect his 
incredible dishonesty in this regard, aimed especially at readers with little 
knowledge of Arabic, The following four variants will clarify: 

1 , Mingana writes: 

"Unlcss f£Ui (or .iLUl) mcans Muw,jhl, hitxin«, it is an obsrure 
word. Thc sentence of the jprinted] Qur'3n is as fbllows: Jf^ 
U_a JJi^iUe i_^ 'They will not take the place of Allah in any- 
thing, for thcc (Muhammad).' Our tcxt is: 
U5U (or uAUl) p&M ^ «iLt l >*io'r*'' '" deriskm, ihey will nol take 
ihe place of a blow, for thce.' If this scnsc is rcjcctcd, the real 
mcaning of this substanttve would bc problcmatic. Thc hamtis 
has simply: £»-^j j£U> **y4 JJti ^j-^ 1 . Thc abstract subsiantivc 
p£», in its tri-litenil Ibrm instead of thc fortn J-*^ is not inucti 
uscd in the post-Qur'anic compositions, but the adjectivc ^± 
is found in good writers." 28 

Notes: So much linguistic gymnastics, and ali for a mute point. 
Keeping in mind his inabilky to read even the lucid manuscripts of 
al-Bukharl, not to speak of palimpsests, Mingana's translation hcre 
is wholly incorrect because the ending makes no conceivable sense 
in this context. The word r&& squarely belongs in the boxing arena, 
not the Quran, and the most charkable rendering I can give is, 'Om 
of wickedness they will not proiect you from thc puneh [»«"]'• That 
the final two words are due to scribal error is glaringly obvious (what 
seribe would deliberately try to alter this verse by inserung such 
absurdities?), but Mingana refuses to give up. 

25 Cambridge, 1914. 

26 The two writings (the Qur'an and tbe Christian text) are perpendicular to one 
another. This typc of writing is called paiimpsest. 

27 Mingana and Smith (eds.), Leaves Jrom Three Ameni Quidns, platc Quran B. 
2B ibid, p. xxxvit. 



2. From sura 17:1-« 


Printed Quran (as 

given by Mingana): 






Notes: Anyone perusing the Mushaf now printed in Madinah will 
find that the published spelling is \S y _ *' not l£jl. . So Mingana inserts 
the atifof his own accord in the first instance, then le^ves it out in 
the second eo create a 'variant*. AIso, the word barak (4^) means 
blessing as wel! as to kneel, and of this he takes advantage by trans- 
lating the first line (with his added alif) as 'blessed', and the second 
as 'knelt'. 
From sura 9:37 SI 

Printed Qur'an (as 
given by Mingana): 


f y» 






U*V . 

Notes: It is no secret that early scribes occasionally dropped vowels 
(i, j, ancl i£) in their copies, 3 -' and here the writer dispensed with 
tlie final voweJ in lS-»* because it issilent. Once again Mingana takes 
advantage, this time through an absolutely ludicrous transposilion. 
He separates the alif('\') from f_>i)i and places it after J+-V, creating 
a new ungrammaticai phrase that is bereft of all meaning. This is 
analogous to taking the phrase 'tigers bunting' and converting it to 
'tiger shunting'. 
4. From sura 40:85 33 

Printed Qur'an (as 
given by Mingana): 










Notes: The same trick is employed here, though with somewhat 
more sophistication. Transposing the V from |t -p-* ^ to •iX>, Mingana 
creatively adds his own dots to the dotless text to form £4. 


ibid, p. xxxviii. 

There is a small alif on *-> which, onfortunately, this word-processor lacks. 

3 ' Mingana, Uavesfmm Time Ancittit Qurans, p. xxxviii. He cites the same wording 
(br vcrsc 9:24. 

32 See this work pp. 130-1. 

Mingana, Ijeevesfiom Time Ancieu/ Qurans, p. xxxix. 


6. Puin and the San'a' Fragments 

In his contribution to The Our'an as Text, Dr. Gerd-R, Joseph Puin alludcs 
to the peculiarities found in the Yemeni hoards: 54 

* Defective writing of alif. These are more common in the San'a' 
fragments than in others. 

• Variations in the position of ayah separators within certatn verses. 

♦ The 'greatest' find is a fragment where the end of sura 26 is foUowed 
by sura 37. 

In authoring "What is the Koran?" for thejanuary 1999 issue of The 
Atlantic Monthly, Toby Lester heavily relied on Dr. Puin's discoveries. One 
of the main figures in the restoration of the Mushafs in San'a 1 , Yemen, 35 
Dr. Puin found himsclf and the Yemeni fragments thrusl into the spotlight 
with the article's publicalion. Lester's words oceasioned both sensational 
joy and deep anger concerning Puin's work, depending on whether one 
spoke with Orientalists or devout Muslims, so to counter the anger of the 
Muslim street and wipe elean the distrust, Puin wrote a lengthy letter in 
Arabic to al-Q5dI al-Akwa' of Yemen. The letter then appeared in the 
Daily ath-Thawra newspaper, and I have reproduced it elsewhere. 36 Praising 
the San'a' Mushafs and how they fortified the Muslim position, he never- 
thclcss wrote with cnough subtlcty and vagueness lo casi a pall over ihc 
whole history of the Qur'an. Following is a translation of part of the letter 
that is related to this theme: 

The remnants [of these old Mushafs] go back, scientifically assured, 
to the first century after Hijra! Because of the existence of these manu- 
seripts in San'a', . . . [we have] the only monumental proof of the com- 
pletion of the Qur'an in the first century of Hijra and not, as so many 
non-Muslim seholars assert, from the early third century of Hijra! Of 
course Muslims may ask what is the point of such Information from a 
non-Muslim seholar, when Muslims are certain that the complete Mushaf 
has existed ever since tlie third Caliph, 'Uthman b. ' Affan. Theirs is simply 
a belief held in good faith, since we do not have the original copy of 
the Mushaf which was written under the supervfeion of 'Uthman, nor 
any of the further copies which he dispatehed to other territories.... 

A summary of his main points runs thus: 

I. The San'a 1 manuseripts are the only monumental proof oi the 

3+ See G.R. Puin, "Observations on Early Qur'an Manuseripts in San a , '" - 
Wild (ed.), The Our'an as Text, p. 1 1 1 . 

35 For a detailed deseription see al-Qadl al-Akwa', "The Mosque of San'a': A Lcadmg 
Islamic Monument in Yemen", in Masaki/ Sana', pp. 9-24 (Arabic seetion). 

36 The entire text appeared in the issue dated 24.1 1.1419 A.H. I have reprodu" 
part of it in Chapter 1 (Figure l.l). 


Qur'fn's completion by the first century of Hijra, a solid refutation 

against the many non-Muslim scholars who claim that it was not 

completed until the early third ccmury. 
2. Muslirns possess no proof that the complete Mushaf has existed 

since 'Uthman's reign; good faith is their sole buttress. 
Most o!' Puin's claims have been dealt with: the defective writing of alif 
vvas covered extensively in Chapters 1 and 11; his 'greatest' triumph, the 
fragment where sura 26 is followed by sura 37, is not the least bit unique 
as I have shown from other partial Mushafs, see pp. 73-76, As regards mis- 
placement of some ayah separators, incongruities in this area have already 
been noted and catalogued by early Muslim scholars. The one claim that 
we have not elaborated on is discussed next. 

i. Are the San'a' Fragments the Only Proof of the 
Qur'an's Completion by the First Century? 

Puin makes two intertwining assertions. He pulls the date for the Qur'an's 
completion from the third century to the first but then, by refraining from 
anything more specific than 'first century', he subtly opens up a wide 
timeframe within which to work. 

Not all Orientalists allege that the Qur'an was completed in the early 
third century. There are some, e.g. Rev. Mingana, who argue that it was 
completed by the first, and yet others, e.g. Muir, who hoki that the present 
Mushaf is identical to the text given by the Prophet. Then there is al-Hajjaj 
(d. 95 A.H.), to whom many Western scholars give credit for the Qur'an's 
final recording. All these dates belong to the first century, and Puin's im- 
precision leaves the door open for assigning any date within this period. 
Precision is a key element of serious scholarship, however, and one we 
must abide by. With the Prophet's passing in early 1 1 a.h. the revelations 
arrived at their natural end; they were compiied into their external form 
during the reign of Abu Bakr (d. 1 3 A.H.), and their spelling standardised 
and copies dispatched by 'Uthman (25-30 A.H.). That is the Muslim view. 
Never have Muslirns alleged that the complete Qur'an did not materialise 
until 'Uthman, and if Puin claims this then he certainly does not speak 
on behalf of any Muslim tongue. 

Several dozen first-century manuscripts of the Qur'an exist in various 
libraries around the world; 37 my personal guess is that, worldwide, there 

37 Imerestingly, there are approximateiy 2,327 copies of §afttk al-Bukk£n world- 
wide, as mentioned in the catalogue al-Fihris as-Shamil H al-Tutatk al-'Arabi al-Istami al- 
Makhtiii: al-Hadith an-J*'abawiash-Shanf wa 'Ultimaku wa Rijaluhu [Al al-Bait Foundation, 
'Amman, 199 1 , i:493-565]. In view of this vast number (thougJi the catalogue is neither 
very accurate nor comprehenssve), k is quite safe to assume that the number of Mushaf 
mamiscripts is many folds this number. 


are about one quarter of a million partial or complete Mushaf manu- 
scripts covering atl eras, 38 Below is a list of some of these which have 
becn conclusively dated to the first cenlury A.H. In compiling this I relied 
on the work of K. 'Awwad, 19 picking only the first-ccntury Mushafs from 
his own list (in boldfaced numbers) and then rearranging the entries bv 

1 . [1] A copy attributed to Caliph 'Uthman bin 'Aflan. Amanat Khiz- 
ana, Topkapi Saray, Istanbul, no. 1 . 

2. [2] Another copy aseribed to 'Uthman bin 'Aflan. Amanat Khizana 
Topkapi Saray, no. 208. This copy has some 300 folios and it is 
missing a portion from both ends. 

3. [3] Another aseribed to 'Uthman bin 'Aflan. Amanat Khizana, Top- 
kapi Saray, no. 10. It is only 83 folios and contains notes written in 
the Turkish language naming the seribe. 

4. [12] Attributed to Caliph 'Uthman at the Museum of Islamic Art, 
Istanbul. It lacks folios from the beginning, middle and end. Dr. al- 
Munaggkl dates it to the second half of the first century. 

5. [43] Attributed to Caliph 'Uthman in Tashkent, 353 folios. 

6. [46] A large copy with 1000 pages, written between 25-31 a.h. at 
Rawaq al-Maghariba, al-Azhar, Cairo. 

-'" Tliis is a conservative iigure and in rcalily il inay csisily excccd it. The collection 
at Tiitk ve Islam Eserkri Miizesi in Istanbul cslimated t o ton lain al>out 2 10,000 Ibtios [F. 
Deroehe, "Tlie Our'an of Amfigur", Manuscripts oj the Sl'uldk. /•.'«.i/, l «ulen, lU'JtMH, 
vol. 5, p. 59], Then, "With about 40 thousand shecls of old parchmcni and paper of 
Qur'anic text from the Great Mosque of San'a' in hand ..." [G.R. Puin, "Methods 
of Research on Qur'anic Manuscripts - A Fcw Ideas", in Masahif San'a', p. 9]. Therc 
are many sizabie collections in olher parts of tlie workl. 

39 K. 'Awwacl, Aqdam al-MakiilMal al-'ArabiyyaJt Maktabal al-'Alam, pp. 3 1-59. 

w A fcw poinls regarding this list: 

♦ Though a good number of these Mushafs were supposedly penned by this or 
thal individual, wc catmot i'oiifinn ordeny these rlaims siniT the- maims<Ti[ils 
themsclves are mute on this point. Other sourcos, inostly aiionymous, have 
supplied the seribes' identities. For approximate dating therefore wc must do 
our own homework. VVhcre a Mushaf is aseribed to "Uthman rtr., it may wcll 
mean for example that the seribe copied it from a Mushaf dispatehed by 

• Many new writings have been discovered which assist us in traeking the evol- 
udon of a seript. An ugly-looking seript does not necessarily preeede a more 
attractive one, date wise, and 1 havc encountered one such examplc myself: 
erude inseriptions in Baruna Palace versus more polished, earlier oncs Irom 
the same region, (Ibrahim Jum'a, Dirasatji Tatawwur al-Kilaba al-hufyya, p- ' * ' J 
A Mushaf penned in a bcautiful hand does not ine\ itably mean that it is o\ 
a lairr date; ihis imforlunalely has Im-oii the allitude of al-Munai;g'd : " ,cl 
others, who blindly acquicsccd to some unproven theories. 

TH P. OR I JiNTA U ST AN D TH E QU R ' AlV' 317 

7. [58J Attributed to Caliph 'Uthman, The Egyptian Library, Cairo. 

8. [4] Ascribed to Caliph 'Al! bin Abi Talib on palimpsest. Muzesi 
Kutuphanesi, Topkapi Saray, no. 36E.H.29. Il has 147 fofios. 

9. 15] Ascribed to Caliph 'Ali. Amanat Khizana, Topkapi Saray, no. 
33. It has only 48 folios. 

i 0. (11] Ascribed to Caliph 'Ali. Amanat Khizana, Topkapi Saray, no. 

25E.H.2. Contains 414 Folios. 
1 J . [37] Ascribed to Caliph ' Ali. Raza Library, Rampur, India, no. 1 . 

Contains 343 Folios. 

12. 142] Ascribed to Caliph 'Ali, San'a , Yemen. 

13. [57] Ascribed to Caliph 'Ali, al-Mashhad al-Husaini, Cairo. 

14. [84] Ascribed to Caliph 'Ali, 127 folios. Najaf, Iraq. 

15. [85] Ascribed to Caliph 'Ali. Also in Najaf, Iraq. 

16. [80] Attributed to Husain b. 'Ali (d. 50 A.H.), 41 folios, Mashhad, 

1 7. [81] Attributed to Hasan b. 'Ali, 124 folios, Mashhad, Iran, no. 12. 

18. [86] Attributed to Hasan b. 'AlT, 124 folios. Najaf, Iraq. 

19. [50] A copy, 332 folios, most likely from the early first half of the 
first century. The Egyptian Library, Cairo, no. 1 39 Masahif. 

20. [6] Ascribed to Khudaij b. Mu'awtya (d. 63 A.H.) written in 49 A.H. 
Amanat Khizana, Topkapi Saray, no. 44. It has 226 folios. 

22. [8] A Mushaf in Kufic script penned in 74 A.H. Amanat Khizana, 
Topkapi Saray, no. 2. It has 406 /blios. 

23. [49] A copy sCribed by al-Hasan al-lfcisrl in 77 A.H. The Egyptian 
Library, Cairo, no. 50 Masahif. 

24. [13] A copy in the Museum of Islamic Art, Istanbul, no. 358. Ac- 
cording to Dr. al-Munaggid it belongs to the late first century. 

25. [75] A copy with 1 1 2 folios. The British Museum, London. 

26. [51] A copy with 27 folios. The Egyptian Library, Cairo, no. 247. 
27.' [96] Some 5000 folios from different manuscripts at the Biblio- 

theque Nationale de France, many from the first century. One of 
them, Arabe 328(a), has lately betm published as a facsimile edttion. 
This is n6t an exhaustive list: access to private collections can dangle 
precariously on the owner's temperament, and Muslims as a whole do not 
enjoy any equivalent to the Mtinster Institute of the. New Testament Textual 
Research in Germany. 41 The collection at Ttirk ve Islam Eserlep Mti&si in 
Istanbul, potentially even more significant than the San a' fragments, still 
awaits dedicated scholars. Regardless of these caveats, the list above shows 



The duty of this officc is to register every manuseript of the New Testamen!, be 
it a 2x3cm fragmen t or a lectionary. See B. Metzger, The Textqf llieJfew Tislatnent, pp. 


that many complete (and semi-complete) Mushafs have survived from Islam's 
earliest days, and among them may well be ones predating 'Uthman's 

Though certainly a great treasure containing a wealth of orthographic 
oddities, thc Mushafs in San'a' do not add anything new or substantiai to 
the body of proof which already demonstrates the Qur'an's completion 
within the first decades of Islam. 

7. Conchtsion 

■Schacht, Wansbrough, Noideke, Hirschfeld, Jeffrey, Flugel, Blachere, Guil- 
laume, Mirfgana, and Puin are not alone in their schemes; all Orientalists 
must, to varying extents, practice dishonesty if they are to successfully 
distort the Ojir'an, whether by transmutation, deliberate mistranslation, 
wiiful ignorance, use of spurious references, or other means. Prof. James 
Bellamy recendy composed a few articles to 'amend' certain scribal errors 
found in the text,* 2 and in this endeavour he is by no means a lone figure; 
the recent past has witnessed a rising chorus of Orientalists demanding 
a systematic revision of the Qur'an. Hans Kung, a Roman Catholic theo- 
logian who found discourse with Islam to be at an impasse, advised Muslims 
in the late 1980s to admit to the element of human authorship in their 
Holy Book." 

Likewise Kenneth Cragg, an Angiican bishop, urged Muslims to re- 
think the traditional Islamic concept of ivaky, "probably as a concession 
by Muslims in the current pluralist spirit of interfaith dialogue". 4-1 In a 
later piece entitled "The Historical Geography of the Qur'an", he proposcd 
abrogating the Madani verses (with their political and legal emphases) in 
favour of their Makkan counterparts, which are generally more concerned 
with basic issues of monothcistic faith, implying that politiciscd Islam dc- 
serves no shelter in a world of secular democracies and Roman Law, This 

42 See "Al-Raqim or al-Ruqud? A notc on Surah 18:9", JAOS, vol. cxi (1991), pp- 
115-17; "Fa-Ummuhu Hawiyah: A Note on Surah 101 :9'\JAOS, vol. cxii (1992), pp. 
485-87; "Some Proposed Emendations to the Text of the Koran", JAOS, vol. cxiii 
(1993), pp. 562-73; and "More Proposed Emendations to the Text of the Koran", 
JAOS, vol. cxvi (1996), pp. 196-204. 

43 Peter Ford, "The Qur'Sn as Sacred Scripture," Muslim World, vol. Ixxxiii, no. 2, 
April 1993, p. 156. 

44 A. Saeed, "Rethinking 'Revelation' as a Precondition for Reinterpredng the Qur'an: 
A Qur'anic Perspective", JQS, i:93, quoting K. Cragg, Troubkdby Truth, PentJand Press, 
1992, p. 3. 


abrogation, he ventured, can be irnposed by appealing to the consensus 
of like-minded laymen and simply bypassing the opinion of Muslim scholars. 45 
The Qur'an states: 

"We have reoealed unloyou the Remembrance [the Qut'an], thatyou may 
explain to humanily timi whkh has been reveatedfor ihem and in order thal 
they maygive thougkt." 

The Prophet vvill forever remain the only sanctioned expounder of the 
Holy Book, his sunna a practical guide to its implementation and the 
reference point as to which exegetical threads are permissible and whkh 
are nol. In sceking to divorcc the two, let alonc to divorce one half of the 
Qur'an from tlie other, Orientalists thoroughly ignore the rayriad rules 
which govern the interpretation of all laws and statutes, and which pre- 
vent even the majority of the learned from dipptng their fingers into this 
business, to say nothing of the uninformed layman. Their theories imply 
that everyone is welcome to dethrone the Commands of Allah even if 
meddling with secular state law remains firmly out of the question. 

With Scriptural corruptions taken for granted as the norm, many scholars 
feel impciled to dip the Qur'an into the same muddied cauldron without 
realising that the ideal they wish to diseredit, one of certainty and flawless 
preservation, can and rcally does cxist. In this regard Hartmut Bobzin 

Christian polemics against the Koran or Islam as a whole is of much 
more interest for European 'Geistsgeschichte' than for Islamic studies 
in the strieter sense, Many of the topies which were handed over again 
and again had nothing to do with real Islam. 4 ' 

He draws an analogy to ihc Guardi bruthers who, in I8lh centuty llaly, 
devised a series of 'Turkish paintings' by mimieking contemporary Turkish 
artisls in a particular way. 

Thus, 'Oriental sujets' as painted by the Guardis are mostly examples 
of their own imagination as to kow the Oriml must be conceived. 48 

What the Guardis' intended is not so different from the portraits that 
Orientalism paints of Islam; a small wonder then that so much of Orientalist 

« ibid, i:8l-92. 

« Our'an 16:44. 

*? H. Bobzin, "A Treasury or Heresies", in S. WUd (ed.), The Qur'an as>Text, p. 174. 

*8 ibid, p. 174. Italics added. 



research runs counter to Muslim failh, since its fantasy of how the East 
"must be conceived" is hatched in a dbtinctly political world. 



Despite all its tendencies against Islamic tradition, Western scholarship 
insists that U is performing a service for Muslims by providing thera with 
pure, impartial, objective research. The implication is that a Muslim seholar, 
blinded by faith, cannot know right from wrong when analysing his own 
beliefs. 1 If there is truth to this then we must, at the very least, be willing 
to inspect Orientalism in relation to its beliefs and overriding principles, 
for branding one group as biased does not automaticaHy justify another 
group s claim to objectivity. Exainining the roots of Orientalism necessarily 
entails delving into polities, past and present, to gain some insight into its 
motivations that the reader may better vveigh Western research on the 
Qur'an accordingiy. 

1 . Thejewish Analogue 

Before diseussing Orientalism 1 will raise an analogous qnestion: injewish 
opinion, cari an anti-Semitic seholar be deemed impartial when examining 
Jewish dociimcntssuch as the OT or the Dead Sea Scroils? Whatcver verdict 
we receive, afiirmacive or negaiive, vve must then apply to the Orientalists' 
supposed objectivity in disseeting Islam. 

i The Validtty of an Anti-Semitic Work 

Fricdricli Delirzsch, a Christian seholar and one of the founding fathers 
of Assyriology, hailed from a tradition of eminent OT scholarship and 

1 I iviis infi mi ih'cI liy a <■« dipagut' tliai I )r. U'adad al-Qji(R has deda red Muslim srliolars 
util'u ui cngasi" i" any research <>a ilie Qur'fui, hecause of thdr fahh. This is hardly 
surprising; a frw years agoshe presentecl a pnper in Cairo which stated that Muslim 
schnlars musi admit io ihc 'auihmiiy' «l' Wesicrn research on Islam. In her cycs their 
lack ol* l'aitli m Islam was a tk-fmiu.- plus lc> (heir credenlials. Shc has rcccnily acecptcd 
the position of associate editor for Brill's ongoing Encycbpaedia of the Qur'an. 


was himself of partly Jewish origin. 2 His view on the OT was, however 
singularly unsympathetic: 

The C>ld Testament is full of all kinds of deceptions: a vcritablc hodge- 
podge of erroneous, incredible, undependabk figures, includ'mg ihose 
of Biblicai chronofogy; a veritable maze of false portrayals, misieading 
reworkings, revisions and transpositioris, together with anachronisms; 
a never-ending jumble of contradicfory dclails and entire narratives 
unhistorical inventions, legends and folktales, in short a book full of 
intentional and unintentional deceptions, in part self-deceptions, a 
very dangerous book, in the use of which the greatest carc is necessarv. 3 

Repeatedly denounced as anti-Semitic, Delitzsch just as repeatecUy de- 
nied it. 

But in view of certain of his remarks (e.g., ...where he calls the Jews 
'a fearful danger of which the Gcrman pcoplc must bc warncd'), the 
accusation seems jusiilscd. 4 

Of Delitzsch's work on the OT, Die Grosse Tauschung, John Bright con- 

Seklom has the Oid Testament been subjecled to more vicious abuse 
than in this book. It is rcally a very bad book {! sliould say a 'sick 
book.'). 5 

Bearing open hostility towards the OT and desiring strongly to disassociate 
Christianity from it, Delitzsch wrote in a vein which now disqualifies his 
book and casts his repute into serious question because of his anti-Semitism. 

h. Can an Anti-Judaic Scholar be Impartial 
When Dealing with a Jewish Themc? 

John Strugneil, a Harvard professor, aseended to tlie post of chief editor 
of the official Dead Sea Scroll editorial team in 1987 but received a highly 
publicised dismissal three years later. His problems began with an interview 
he gave to Israelijournaiist Avi Katzman (published in Ha'aretz, 9 November 


2 John Bright, The Atahoritf of the Old Testament, Abingdon Press, Nashville, 1967, 
pp. 65-66. 

■' ibid, p. 66, quoting Friedrich Delitzsch, Die Grosse Tauseliwig (1920). 

4 ibid, p. 67, footnote 21. 

5 ibid. p. 65. 



1990), in which, suffering from manic-depression, he expressed certain anti- 
Judatc sentimcnts. Among these was a reference to Judaism as "a horrible 
religion", statements to the effect that the Jewish problem was best solved 
through mass conversion to Christianity, and that Judaism was initiaUy 
racist. Though he pointed out at the interview's start that he did not intend 
his comments to be taken as anti-Semitic, Katzman ignored the request 
and critiqued them m no uncertain terms; Strugneli suspects that, 

behind Mr. Katzman [lay a worry] whether Christian scholarship could 
deal impartially with the nature of the scrolls, being documents of a 
Jewish sect... I'm amused when I hear people like Schifiman [of New 
York University] saying how sad it is that Jewish scholars have not 
been working on these texts. 6 

By dint of the article he was discharged. Years later he continued to deny 
anti-Semitic leanings, insisting on the term 'anti Judaist' instead: a person 
not antagonistic tojews as individuais or masses, but to the Jewish religion 

But I'm not really concerned whether I dislike or like the religion of 
Judaism. I want more things for the religion of Christians. I want the 
reign of Christ to be more glorious, which it would be certainly by 
liaving 20 milliot) morejcws on boiird. 7 

In retaining Christian beliefs Prof. Strugneli must have sensed the theo- 
logical significance of the Dead Sea Scrolls, otherwise attaining the post 
of chief editor would have been a hopeless dream. His dismissal was not 
the result of incompetence, or for that matter disbelief in, or denigration 
of, the manuscripts he was supervising. As he observed, it stemmed entirely 
from Jewish fears of his subjectiviry in examining a document of Jewish 
nature, given among other things his fervour for Christ. This reiigious rivalry 
proved sufficient grounds for barring him, irrespective of his credentials. 

m. Are Jewish Scholars Free to Study Jewish Topics? 

So far we have cited two cases where accusations of anti-Semitism dis- 
qualifted exceptiona! scholars from researching Jewish themes. But what 

'' H . Sh.uiks, "0«st«t CUk'f Scroll Editor Makes His Case: An Intcrview with John 

Strugneli", Biblical Archaeology Review, July/Aug, 94, vol. 20, no. 4, pp. 41-42. 

7 ibid, p. 43. One intcrcsting claim he makes is ihat the "Cardinal Archbishop of 
Paris is ajew and he gets on perfectly well with his archdiocese, which is not Jewish" 
{p- 43]. 

324 TH V. H IS 1X5 KY O l' Tll E QU K ' A N K \ TEXT 

about exceprional Jewish scholars thcmselves, are they necessarily considcred 
qualified to study sensitive material? 

The Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered beginning in 1947. Though thc 
main editorial team completed a transcription of thc entire text by Uie 
late 1950s (including a full concordance), it maintained secrecy not onlv 
about the transcripts but even rcgarding their existcnce. Taking its time 
rather generously, the team took forty ycars to publish a mere Uventv 
percent of the texts it was responsible for. Hershel Shanks, chief editor of 
Biblkal Archaedogy Review, cornerccl ihe direrior of thc Israel Amiqui(ies 
Departmcni (IAD) over iwenty-iive ycars Liter in scaivh of tliis lotuordaiue, 
only for the direetor to assure him that he had no knowledge of it."Mean- 
while academic circles pressing for a faesimile edition of the unpublishcd 
tcxls mcl only an icy, unyielding resohe liom the scroll editor* to n ia intai u 
exclusive control of all findings. y 

Buckling under incessant criticism General Amir Drori, Direetor of 
thc IAD, issued a reluetant press release in September 1991 that plcdged 
freer access to pholographs of thc Scrolls."' 

General Drori announced that makiiig the lcx( availahle lo anyone 
would put thc possibility of a 'definilive inlerpietaihn' at risk. .. It is worth- 
while to recount the cartel's earlier tooth-and-nail efTorts to maintain 
the sccrccy of the unpublishcd tcxts. Thcsc cllbrls were acconipanicd 
by a remarkable disdain for anyone who darcd question thc wisdom of 

Eugene Ulrich of Notre Dame, among the senior team editors, protested 
that, "the editing of the scrolls has in faet suffered not from foot-dragging 
but from undue haste". 12 Average universiry professors were in no position 
to competendy assess the team 's eflbrts he insisted, echoing the team's rc- 
peated sentiment that only the official editors, and their students, were 
adequate to the task. 

"In an interview in Scienlific American, [the chief editor] asserted that 
Oxford don Geza Vermes was nof 'competent' to cxamine an unpub- 
lishcd scroll because Vermes had not done serious work. Vermes is the 

H Hershel Shanks, "Scholars, Scrolls, Secrels and 'Crimcs'", Aw lbrk Times, 7 Sep- 
tember 199!, appeared as figure 18 in Eisenman and Robinson, A Faesimile Edition of 
Ihe Dead Sea Scrolls, Publisher's Forward, First priniing, 1991, p. xli. Note that in the 
second (and perhaps in subsequent) priniings all these have been omitted. 
9 A Faesimile Edition of Ihe Dead Sea Scrolls, Publisher's Forward, p. xxi. 
10 ibid, p. xii. 

1 ' ibid, p. xiii. Italics addcd. 
' 2 ibid, p. xiv. 


attllmr ol si'vri'al higlily acclaimcd ImhiIk on the Dead Sca Semils, 
including the \vick:ly used Penguin edition, The DeadSea Scrolls m Eng/M, 
novv in its third edition. The Sckntific American iniervicwer was incred- 
ulous: 'A Cuil professor at Oxford, ineompelem?' So wcre wc all." 13 

The incredulity is wcll placcd, for the real issue here is not competence 
but rather the wiUingness to tow the line on a 'definitive interpretation'. 
Following this seheme from the outset and fiercely guarding the Scrolls 
from general academia, the team has shown no regard or recognition for 
any sort of scholarship -Jewish or otherwise - except that whicli furthers a 
specific intent. What clearer example of inbred subjectivity can there 
be? 14 

These three examp!es, and in faet dozens of others from post-v^ar Europe 
and America alone, illustrate a recurring theme of unseating all seholars 
(if alive, physically, and if dead, academically) who happen to display ideo- 
logical rivalry in the course of working on sensitive Jewish issues. Whether 
the seholars in question are allegedly renowned or outstanding bears no 
relevance; ideological incompatibility alone is weighed in disqualifying 
them. To what extent does this thinking hold true for Muslims? 

2. The Muslim CounUrpoint 

z'. Israeli Suppression of Palestinian History 

Keith Whitelam, Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Stirling 
(Scotland), is author of a paper which stirred great controversy in many 
Bible circles, asserting as it did a eonspiracy by Biblical seholars and arch- 
aeologists, particularly Zionists, to shape Jewish history into a mould that 
denies the history of those who settled the Iand long before the Israelites, 
i.e. the ancient Palestinians. 13 Since 1948 the stance of Israeli scholarship 

1 3 ibid, p. xiv. 

,+ Note that all the previous quotes are from the first printing, they were altogether 
omitted from the second (and perhaps in subseojuent) printings. The Biblical Archaeo- 
logical Sociecy successfully published A FacsimHe Edition of the Dead Sen Scrolls in 1991, 
amid miich praise (along wilh bitter eondemnation froni the Scroll editors). To my 
horror, I discovered thai in the second printing of this set Hershel Shank's original 
foreword has shrunk from 36 pages to just two. No substantial note was given for this 

1 ' H. Shanks, "Scholar Claims Palestinian History is Suppressed in Favor of Israelites", 
Biblical Arckaeology Review, March/April 96, vol. 22, no. 2, p. 54. "Whitelam's paper was 
conskiered sosignificp.nt that it wasdelivered in one of the very few sessions sponsored 
jointly by the Society of Biblical Literature, the American Academy of Religion and 
the American Schools of Oriental Research." [ibid, p. 54.J 


(he declares) has been one of establishing a past vvhich, while glorifyino; 
ancient Israei's claim to the land, simultaneously dcvalues and displaces 
all indigenous histories and cultures. 15 As such, Biblical scholars aim to 
deprivc Palcstinians of their land ai prcscm by depriying ihcm of ii in the 


Biblical studies has formed part of the romptac arrangement of schol- 
arly, cconomic, and military power by which Palcstinians liavc bccn 
denied a contemporary presence or history. 1 ' 

Rcfultng his views, Hcrshc! Shanks cites at length the numerous non- 
Israclilc cuhures in the area which havc rccciuly secn a scholarly icvival: 

Philistines, Edomitcs, Moabites, Aramcans, Hurrians, Canaanites. Hc acc- 
uses Whitelam of poiiticising history and concludes that while pro-Zionisi 
scholars havc tried to shift away from the subjectivity of years past, the 
same is not true of Keith Whitelam. 18 

In perusing this review I was struck that nowherc does Hershcl Shanks 
refer to Islamic history, or to any associated scholarly revival. Is this casual 
disregard not "part of the complex arrangement" through which Whitelam 
sees Palcstinians being denied their rightful authority and iand? Which 
culture, Canaanite or Muslim, best defines Palestinian self-identity, and 
why is ifbeing wholly neglectcd? Though finally prepared to acknowlcdgc 
the Palestinians' ancient customs and cultures, Shanks still seems unwilling 
to accord their contemporary religion its rightful place in the history of 
the land. It is as though, in narrowing their sights exclusively on ancient 
studies, Israeli and Western scholars view fourteen centuries of Muslim 
culture as so much rubbish which they must shove! through before arriving 
at the good stuff. . 

ii. An Orientalist Pioneer and Deceiver of Muslims 

Returning to Orientalism, let us take one quick case study. In his Origins of 
Muhammadan Jumprudence Schacht writes, 

I feel myself under a deep obligation to the masters of Islamic studies 
in the last generation. The name of Snouck Hurgronje appears seldom 
in this book; yel if we now understand the charaeter of Muhammadan 
La w, it is due to him.' 9 

16 ibid, p. 56. 

1 ' ibid, p. 56, quoting Keith Whitelam. 
'8 ibid, p. 69. 

19 Joseph Schacht, The Origitu of Muhammadan Jumprudence, 2nd edition, Oxford Uni . 
Press, (959, Pnsface. 


But who was Snouck Hurgronjc? An Orientalist whose agenda was to 
deceive the Muslim masses of Indonesia into acceptiug the Dutch govern- 
ment's colonialist exptoitation: "Islam is the religion of peace," he preached, 
"and the duty of the Muslims according to the Shari'a is to follow the 
order of the [Dutch] rulers - and not to disobey and commit violence," 20 
Travelling to Makkah to further this mantra, he alteged himself a Muslim 
to win broader popularity without sacrificing the full. scope of his ambkions. 
Edward Said notes the "close cooperation between scholarship and direct 
military colonial conquest" inherent in "the case of the revered Dutch 
Orientalist C. Snouck Hurgronje, who used the confidence he had won 
from Muslims to plan and execute the brutal Dutch war against the 
Atjeyhnese people of Sumatra." 21 

And after all this he is considered a Western pioneer of Islamic Law. 
The point is clear. While those accused of unfavourable remarks towards 
Judaism are roundly denounced, ostracised and dismissed, the very members 
of Jewish intelligentsia who condemn Strugnell's prejudices are them- 
selves apathetic to Israeli bigotry against Muslim culture and Muslim 
artefacts. Meanwhile the far greater prejudice of Hurgronje and a host 
of other colonialist agents and clergymen - manifesting itself not simply 
in words, but in deception and direct military subjugation - is casually 
overlooked, and their status in Western spheres as 'Orientalist pioneers' 
remains untouched. 

3. Searchingfor Imparliality 

i. A Historical Perspective: Jews, Christians, and Romans 

All Orientalist scholarship is built on the premise of the more enlightened 
outsider being free of biases, but has Western orJudeo-Christian tradition 
«wallowed room for this supposed objectivity? Where are these jewels of 
wise discourse in the subjective and vulgar catalogue of historic Western 
wriiings? Vulgar, 1 say, because anyone can compare the reverence with 
whkh Muslim scholars treac Jesus, the Virgin Mary, Moses, Aaron, Isaac, 
Abraham, David, Solomon, Lot etc., to the crude and wrathful ranting of 
Jews against Christians, of Christians against Jews, of Catholics against 
Protestants, and of ancient Romans against everyone. Here I will quote at 
length Adrian Reeland, Professor of the Oriental Tongues at the University 

20 See Isma'il al-'Uthmanl, Monthly al-Mishkal, Waydah, Morocco, viii, 1419 A.H. : 
pp. 28-9. 

21 Edward Said, Covering Islam, Pamheon Books, New York, 1981, p. xvii. 

328 T H E H I STORY O K 'l ' H V. Qlj K A Ml C 'l ' liXT 

oi' Utrecht, who in 1705 composed a uniquc work in Iwilin, subscquentlv 
iranslat'cd and publishcd in London undcr llic tillc, Ivur Treat'ues CoiKernlnu 

the Doclrine, Discipline and Worship of Ihe Maliometans (1712). 

The Jarisk IVoplc, lho ihey had lho holicst Insuiuics and duit 
ever wcrc ... could nol escape ihe Spile o/' nicked Mcn, who cliai-g*c| 
many things upon them which vvere absoluicly false. Taeilus himseir, 
who wanted not Opportunilys of consulting the Jtws in thcir own 
Affairs, writes that tliey ... wcrc cxpcl'd Egypl for the Scab; and that 
they conseerated the Image of an Ass, which had taught them to cxpcl 
their Thirst, and ecase from their Wandcrings. Plutarch rclatcs ... that 
the Feast of Tabcrnadcs was celebrated in Honour o( Bacchus; nav, 
that the very Sabbath was conseerated to that Divinity. ... RuUlius 
[called] the Jewisfi Sabbaths, Cold Sabbaths, and said thcir Hcarts 
were colder than their Religion; for this reason, that many of the Jews 
... did not kindle Firc upon the Sabbath-day. 22 

But when the Chtistians left the Jena, and set up a distinci Worship 
... what an ugly Representation was there made of our Religion by 
the Heathcns? ... The Heathens charg'd it on the Christians, That 
theii' God was huol 'd like an Ass; that they worship'd the Gcnitals of 
a Priesi; that they feasted those who were to be initiated, on a young 
Child cover'd over with Fiower; that, after having ended their solemn 
Feasts, and put out the Lights, the Mcn and VVomen embrac'd onc 
another as Chance guided them; that they tlircaien'd the Dcstruction 
of the whole World by Firc. ... The very Dortrine of vvorshipping onc 
God laid them under the Imputation of Atheism. ... And to sum up 
. all in the words of lertullian, in his Apology, They were counlcd Murderers, 
Incesluous, Sacrilegious, publkk Enemys of Mankind, guilty of all U'ieked/iess, 
and therefore Enemys o/ die Gods, of Emperan, of Alorality, and of Universal 

But if wc carry our Thought down to our own Times, we shall find 
Mankind is not a whit more jusi in this respect. ... What did not the 
Church of Rome charge us with, when we departed from her...? They 
assert in their Books, that we hold good Works in detestation; that we 
afTirm God to be the Author of Evil; that we despise Mary the Mother 
of Christ, Angels, and the Memory of the Saints; ... that wc are 
divided into a hundred and twenty six abominable Sccts, the Names 
of which cannot be read wiihout Laughter; ... that Luther convers'd 
familiarly with the Devil, and ended his Days with a String; that Calvin 
was guiity of horrible Wickcdness, and dy'd of an Ulcer in his Privities, 
that was inflieted by Heavcn, despairing of Salvation; . . . that Lutliers 
Name, in Hebrew Luller, express'd the number of Antichrist 666 [and] 

22 H. Relan d, Fow Treatises Concerning ihe Doclrine, Discipline and Worship of llte Mahometons, 
London, 1712, pp. 5-6. 

23 ibid, pp. 6-7. 


that Dflher would bring the Kingdom of Maliomet into these Parts, and 
; |i [hai hfe Ministers and Followers would qukkly fail into Mahometanism.' 2 * 

pl Certainly if ever any Religion was perverted by Adversarys, had in 

W- Contempt, and thought unworthy of Refutation, it was this Religion 

[of Islam]. If one would design an abominable and base Doctrine by 
the fittest Epithet, he calls it Mahomelan; and the very Turks don't allow 
such a Doctrine: As if there was nothing good in the Mahomelan Creed, 
but every Article corrupted. Nor need we wonder at this, since there 
is the greatest Agreement betwkt the Devil and Maliomet, as the Author 
of the 4tk Oralion against Mahomel has shewn by many Arguments, . . . If 
any one of our Vouth apply himself to the Study of Theology, and is 
fir'd with a certain generous Ardor of understanding the Mahomelan 
Religion, he is srnt lt> [study trentises hy Western authors who write 
with ignorance]. He a nol. advis 't/ lo learn tlie Arabick, to liear Mahornet 
Speak m his own Tongite, to gel the Eastern Writings, and to see itritti his own 
Eyes, nol with other Peoptes: Because 'lis nol wortli uihile (say many) lo undergo 
so much Troubk and Fatigue, only to eonsiilt the Dreams and Ravings of a 

To a good measure this last sentimem holds true to this day, the re- 
visiomst school insisting that no Muslim documcnt bears any semblance 
of trutli milcss other, non-Muslim accounts provide verification.-' 1 ' Given 
how maliciously Christians and Jews have lashed out against Muslims 
(nun the very daivn of Islam, what hopc ran w<* possibly Itavc of priesls 
and rabbis from the Middlc Agcs verifying these Muslim accounts, attesting 
to the accomplishments of their bitterest rivals with objectivity? Under 
no condition do Western seholars validate the inordinate abuse that Jews 
and Christians hurled against each other, each group barricaded by its own 
ignorance and superstition;' 17 so then on what grounds is their inordinate 
abuse against Muslims, hatehed of the selfsame ignorance and superstition, 
to be accepied now as- trutli?-" 

24 ibid, pp. 7-8. 

2:1 ibid, p. 12. Emphasis (last sentence) added. 

26 See Yehuda Nevo's detinition of Revisionism in this work, pp. 7-8. 

27 See for example the apologist attitude inherent in the artieles of both Joseph Blen- 
kinsopp and Barclay Newman [Bibit Review, vol. xii, no. 5, Oct. 19%, pp. 42-43], not 
reflected in my quotations from pp. 291-2. 

28 Here are a few of the charges levelled against Muslims by 1 7th and 18th century 
Christtan seholars writing in Latin: (l)That Muslims worshtp Venus; (2) And worship 
all created beings; (3) And deny the existence of Hell; (4) And believe sins are taken 
away by fre<iuetu washing of the body; (5) And believe the devils to be the friends of 
God and of the Prophet Muhammad; (6) And believe that all the devils will be saved; 
(7) And believe that women shall not enter Paradise; (8) And believe Mary conceived 
Jesus by eating dates; (9) And believe Moses is amongst the damned. [See Reeland's 
Fbur Trealises, pp. 47-102.] , 


U. Impartiality in Modern Studies 

In his dense and enlightening book Covering Islam, Edward Said exposes 
the political and media-driven sensationaiism that feeds Western masses 
with a distinctly perverted view of Islam. Packaged as an imminent threat 
to Western civilisation, Islam has attained a singularly menacing reputation 
which no other religious or cultural group can approach, 29 It serves as a 
ready scapegoat for any socio-politicai or economic phenomenon that the 
West finds disagreeable, the political consensus being that even though 
little enough is known about this religion, there is not much there to be 
regarded favourably. 30 Tackling the roots of this antagonism Said notes 
the historic Christian tendency to view Islam as an encroachment, a late- 
coming challenge to their authority, a formidable foe which throughout 
the Middle Ages, 

was believed to be a demonic religion of apostasy, Wasphemy, and 
obscurity. It did not seem to matter that Muslims considered Mo- 
hammad a prophet and not a god; what mattered to Christians was 
that Mohammad was a false prophet, a sower of discord, .. . an agent 
of the devil. 31 

Even as Christian Europe witnessed its ascent at the expense of Muslim 
rule, this voiatile brew of fear and hatred persisted; its very proximity to 
Europe made 'Mohammedanism' a latent threat which could never bc fully 
and satisfactorily mastered. India, China, and other Eastern cultures, once 
made to submit, were distant and no longer elicited the constant appre- 
hension of European governments and theologians. Only Islam appeared 
to hold its own, tenaciously independent and defying complete submission 
to the West. 32 He argues convincingly that, at no time in European or 
American history has Islam been "generally discussed or thought about 
outside a framework created by passion, prejudice, and political interests". 33 
While Peter the Venerable, Barthelemy d'Herbebt, and other early writers 
were undoubtedly Christian polemicists hurling abuse at this rival faith, 
our age blindly assumes that modernism has purged Orientalism of its pre- 
judices, has set it free like the chemist who now analyses molecular structure 
with precision instead of pursuing alchemy. 

29 Edward Said, Conaing Islam, p. xii. 

30 ibid, p. xv. 

31 ibid, pp. 4-5. 

32 ibid, p. 5. 

33 ibid, p. 23. 


Wasn't ic true that Silvestre de Sacy, Edvvard Lane, Ernest Renan, 

Hamilton Gibb, and Louis iVlassignon wcrc Icarncd, objective scholars, 
and isn'l it true that foilowing upon all sorts of advances i m. Iwenticth- 
century sociology, anthropobgy, linguistics, and bistory, American 
scholars who teach the Middle East and Islam iri places like Princeton, 
Harvard, and Chicago are therefore unbiased and free of special 
pleading in what they do? The answer is no. 34 

Everything about the study of Islam today remains drenched in political 
expediency and pressure; articles, reviews, and books drip with political im- 
portance even vvhile their authors bury their 111 feelings beneath a jargon 
of 'scientilic impartialiry' and use their university tides to disrniss any ulterior 
motives. 35 

4. Pressures and Molives 

Orientalist theories are born not in a vacuum, but in a world of pressing 
political needs which mould and colour everything about them; let us 
inspect how these needs have shifted over time. 

i. Colonialism and the Demoralisation of Muslims 

Grasping Western motives necessitates that we draw a line through 1948. 
Prior to that the main thrust was to expose Muhammad as a false prophet, 
the Qur'an as an amateurish and dreadful counterfeit, the kadtthsas spur- 
ious, and Islamic Lavv as a poor salad appropriated from many cultures. 
In short, findings which sought to dcmoralise Muslims (particularly the 
ruling classes, which were the likeliest to fail victim), and to assist the colonial 
powers in producing a crop of loyal subjects by crushing any notions of 
a regal Islamic history or distinguished Muslim identity. 

With almost all Muslim territories ravaged by some form of colonialism, 
the Ottoman Caliphate included, the time was ripe for an onslaught on 
people's everyday alTairs. The legitimatc Muslim scholars {'ulama*) were 
placed under extreme political constraints; most endowments, a rich source 
of support for Islamic scholarship, were abolished or confiscated. ,fi Islamic 
Law was phased out and abolished. Colonial language and colonial script 

3 -» ibu/, p. 23. 

35 ibid, pp. xvii, 23. 

3 " A practice which continues »o this day. 


gained precedence over all else, a decrce which cfFectively thrust entire 

nations into mslilutionalised illiteracy. Their lack of proficiency in European 
janguagesfurther margin aJised the 'ulama'; dic retoris theyissucd wcremostlv 
in their vemacular and went unheeded. Orientalism was not interested in 
dcbating with thc 'ulama' tiowever, inucli less noting their criticisms; its 
sote aim was to use colontal resources in partnership with fbreign n•nnistries' , ' 
to influence the new breed of Wcstcrn-educated Muslim eliles. M By casling 
these elites into a secularist mould and convincing thetn that adherence 
to the Qur'an was futiie, they longed to undermine all currem and future 
prospects of Muslim political strength. 

'Prov'mg' all rnanner of vice in Muhammad and all manner of theft 
from the Scriptures in the Qur 'an, Geiger, Tisdall and others hdped to 
cement this seheme; all eyes then turned to the Prophet's sunna, and the 
honour of demolishing this weni to Gokb-iher (1850-1921), the highesi 
ranking Orientalist of his limc. In Prof. Humphreys' assessment, his Miiltam- 
mdanisdte Sludkn successfiilly 

demonstrated that a vast number of hadiths accepted even in the most 
rigovously critical Muslim collections were outright forgeries from the 
lale 2nd/8ih and 3rd/9th centuries - and as a consccjuencc, that enet- 
iculous isnads which supportcd thein were utterly fictitious. 3 ' - ' 

Joseph Schacht pursued his mentor's conclusion further. isnad in his 
view was a remnant of the Abbasid revolution, in the mid second century. 
The more perfect isnads were the ones most likely to be fabrications. So 
highly esteemed was his theory that his Origim of Mitkammadanjurisprudcnce 
became an Orientalist bible, beyond refutation or reproach, of which Gibb 
predieted that it would "become the foundation for all future study of Islamic 

37 One quick e.sample of (his is an 1805 artklc i u As'mUc /btiuial Register byj. Gilehrist 
cnistkd, "Obsei-vation oti the policy of lorming an oriental eseabtishment, for (be pur- 
pose of furnisbing a regiilar supply of properly qualiiied diplomatic agents, interpreters, 
&c, for facilitating and improving the direct intercourse between G real Britain and 
the nations of Asia, in imitation of a similar instinuioii in Francc." [Scc VV.H. Behn, 
Inde.r Islamicus: 1665-1905, Adiyok, Millersvillc PA, 1989, p. J.} 

3M Orientalist ciTovts to elimmate the inviolability of the Quraii hate sadly garnered 
some suppori among Turkey's secularist elite. President Demirel even went on recoro 
(Daily ar-Riyad, issue 27.8.1420 A.H./5.H.1999] with the contradietory statemcrH 
that modern islam is fully compatible with seeularisation, adding that roughly 330 
verses frotnihe Qur'5n "ace no longer praciieable" and sbould be excised. The /t> 
year-old pvesident faced a veritable tempest of public and journalistic fury follow»ng 
his staicment, while his bid to orgatiise a 'rcligious reformaiioif was rejected by TuiKe\ s 
High Court for Islamic AflVtrs, 

39 R. S. Humphreys, Islamic Histoty, p. 83. 


civilization and law, at least in the West".' 10 "We may decide simply that 
Schacht is right," echoed Humphreys. 41 Critical study of his work has been 
systematically neglected, 42 if not barred. When the late Amin al-Masrl 
chose a critical study of the work as the subject of his Ph. D. thesis, the 
University of London rejected his application; he fared no better at Cam- 
bridge University. 43 Professor NJ. Coulson tried to gently point out some 
of the vveaknesses in Schacht's thesis, though insisting that ih the broad 
sense it was irrefutable; a short while later he left Oxford University. 

Wansbrottgh, building on Schacht's findings, concluded that "with very 
few exceptions, Muslim jurisprudence was not derived from the contents 
of the Qur'an". And so the Qur'an's status in early Islamic history was even 
further marginalized at the hands of Wansbrough, who almost entirely 
cradicated it from the Muslim community's dealings. The few remaining 
cases that could be used as evidence of derivation from the Qur'an were 
casually dismissed: "It may be added that those few exceptions . . . [are] 
not necessarily proof of the earlier existence of the scriptural source." 
He provides a reference for this conclusive idea. One may wonder what 
pioneering work has established this blanket statement about the Qur'an, 
but the foolnote mentions: Strack, H., Introduclion to the Talmud and Midrask.* 4 
Which implies that if anything is true of the Talmud and Midrash, then 
it must be even truer of the Qur'an. 

u. The Jewish Question and the Erasure of 
History and Fabrication of a New One 

A fresh impetus has been added to the Orientalist cause since 1 948: the 
need to secure Israel's boundaries and regional ambitions. To study this new 
motive requires us to first examine the Jewish Question\ The brutality of 

the Spanish Inquisition, perpetratcd by a nation claiming to embrace a 
God of love, resulted in the peninsula's 'cleansing' from all Muslim presence 

"*^ H .A.R. Gibb, Journal of Comparative. Legislation and International Law, 3rd series, vol. 
34, para 3-4 (1951), p. 114. 

41 Humphreys is the King ' Abdul-' AzTz Professor of Islamic Studies at the University 
of California, Santa Barbara. For this quotation refer to his Islamic History, p. 84. See 
also J. Esposito, Islam: the Straighi Palh, Expanded edition, Oxford Univ. Press, New 
York, 1991, pp. 81-82. 

42 Such as M.M. al-A'zami, On Schacht's Origins of Mtthammadan Jurisprudence, John 
VViley, 1985. 

43 See Mustala as-Stba'I, as-Sunaa wa Makanatuha, Cairo, 1961, p. 27. 

44 Wansbrough, Ouranic Studies, p. 44. " 


in addition to the dispcrsal of Jewry. Of these Jews some took shcker in 
Turkey, under Ottoman proteciion, while others settled clsewhcre in Kuropc 
and borc an unccrtain iatc.Jcws rcsiding in carJy I9lh cemury Gcrmany 
for instance were not even fegally human: tliey existed as the kiiig's personal 


Like other serfs, Jews could not move from one town to another, 
marry, or have more than one child wilhout permission. Because of 
their International connections, however, Jevvs were oflkially encour- 
aged to settle in Germany with a view to facilitating trade." 

To Germans, the Jewish question manifested itsell" as the bewilderment 
of a Christian nation "as to how to treat an entire people who [were unfit] 
to be frce". +s Of the various thcorisls who came forlh with solutions none 
exceeded Kari Marx's influence; his schemc for liberating bis fellow Jcws 
was to free them from their religious identity, even while lending his support 
to a pelilioii Ibr Jewish rights. 1 ' Dcntiis I r ischman vvriles, 

Indecd, "in the fmal analysis, the emmwipalion of the jcws is the eman- 
cipation of mankind from Judaism." Jews, Mara seems to be saying, 
can only become free when, asjew.s, iliey iw longcr exist.'" 

The term Jew' has two connoiations: (l)Jews as a nation, and (2) Jcws 
as the followers of Judaism. Mara desires to free Jews from wliat he sees 
as the shaekling influence of both; clearly the most foolproof approach is 
to sever oli people from their nationalities, tangible belongings, and religions. 
Socialism as a working concept may have largely collapsed, bui the idea 
of abolishing national identity and faith to ereate a level playing field is 
very much alive. This idea was lucidly communicated in an interview given 
by former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres to Sir David Frost. Faced 
with a question regarding the source of anti-Semitism, Peres answercd 
that the same question had plagued the Jewish masses for at. least the last 
two hundred years, yielding two disparale views. 

One answer was, "Because the wortd is wrong, so wc have to change 
the world." And the other was, "Wc arc wrong, so wc have to change 
ourselves." The Jewish people, Ibr cxamplc, ivho became communists. 

■'■ r ' Di'imis Fiscliiuau, l'olilital Disamr-ie iu l''xrte: hari \lnrx aittf lht\jttri\h ifiinlion, I he 
Univcrsity of Massachuseus Press, 1991, p. 2>i. 

46 ibid, p. 28. 

47 ibid,pp. 7, 15. 
18 ibid, p. 13. 


thal rttanged tlw world, the workl of hatrcd. "/j'/ 'v buitd n ivorld withoul 
natiom, withoul clwtses, wilhmtl religion, n world withoul a Ij>rd, thal callsfor the 
hatred of olher people. , ' w 

Jean-Paul Sartre, the existemialist author who wasjewish from his mother's 
side, argued along these same lines: reason had to displace religion as the 
corc solutiou (o lifc's conrerns. R>r Sartre the continuation of religion meant 
a chronic perseculiori ofjewry, and its ehmination became the key to cur- 
tailing anti-Semitism. : "' 

While perusing a booklet entitled Greal Confrontations in Jewish History?* 
I happened aeross a seminar called 'Modernity and Judaism' deiivered by 
Dr. Hertzberg, rabbi and Adjunct Professor of History at Columbia Uni- 
versity. 12 Examining the attitudes of prominent Jewish thinkers about their 
ovvn religion, Hertzberg concentrates most notably on Marx and Sigmund 
Freud. The young Marx, he finds, viewed thejew in Die Judmfiage as the 
proto-capitalist, a vietim of the myriad tensions hatehed by monetary 
systems and the economic machinery. To solve the Jewish question was 
to destroy economic and class hierarchies, to emancipate Christians and 
Jews alike by toppling the traditional praetiees of capitalism. Freud on the 
other hand viewed religion as an infantile obsession with authority figures, 
as essentially a sickness which every person had to transeend to achieve 
mental health and maturity/' 3 

This iconoclastic attitude, this rebeliious urge to overthrow historical 
norms, was by no means limited to Marx and Freud; the great 'outsiders 1 
of Jewish thought adopted this siance rourinely. Why? Hertzberg sees k 
as a call for liberation: that by divorcingjevvs from every element of their 
past in Medieval Europe, they could start afresh on an equal footing with 
gentiles. This, he says, was the beginning of Jewish modernity. Establishing 
a sturdy foothold in Western culturc entailed burying Europc's past, laden 
as ii was with Christian mytliology and beliefs, sucli that all men rising 
from the ashes of this charred liistory would work together as comrades 
in the new age. 5 " 1 

43 Talking with David Frosl: Shimon ft;«. Aired in US on Public Broadcasting System 
(PBS), 29 March 1996. Transcripi #53, p. 5; emphasis addcd. 

50 M. Qutb, al-Mast<:slmqun waal-hlam, Maktabat Wahba, Cairo, 1999, p. 309. This 
kfca is lound in Sartrc's Anti-Semile midjem (English translotion), Schocken Books Inc., 
New York, 1995. 

51 Titis is i\n amhology of lenuros pubiished by the Dept. of History; Univcrsity of 
Denver, and edited by Stanley M. Wagner and Allen D. Breck. 

5 - He is Rabbi at Temple Emanuel, Engtewood, New Jersey. In addition to his rab- 
binical rok he has taught at Rutgers University, Princcton University, and the Hebrew 
Univcrsity injerusalem. 

■ r,:i Wagner aiid Bivck (eds.), (iicat (Mii/hmlations in Jewish llistoty, pp. 1 27-8. 

S* ifci'rf, pp. 128-9. 


In Hertzberg's assessment this anti-nationalist, pro-universalist Reform 
Jew is not that diflerent from the contemporary nationalisl who prides 
himself on being a Zionist. While both behave andthettcally they vie for 
the same thing. To 19th century Reform Jews religion vvas the shackJe they 
had to crush to win their equality. By comparison, contemporary Zionism 
asserts that religion is no longer adequate as a unifying force. 

Except for religious faction, the majority of Zionists, political as well 

as cultural, are secularists who begin with the presumptton that the 
Jewish religion can no longer serve as the basis for Jewish unity and 

that therefore Jewish survivalist policy has to be founded on some 
other premisc. . . Thegreatest comnwmdmenl is no longer to suffer martyrdomfor 
llie saacCiftcalion e/ the Divine fr'ame, bui rather tofightjor the rebuildmg of Ihe 
iand? b 

What Peres, Hertzberg, Sartre, Marx, Freud and others appear to be 
saying is that Jewish intelJigentsia demands a global sociely that is devoid 
of God, of religion, and of history — the complete antithesis of the Jewish 
claim that their right to Palestitie is based on the promise of Yahweh. 56 
Their desired iniegration into a widcr sooiety entails razing the past: the 
erasure of history and the fabrication of a substitute. To this eftect Well- 
hausen and«others began the task of chipping away at the OT's integrity, 
opening the way for an assault on the NT and, from thence, the Our'an. 

In the bleak years of the Second World War, Jews undoubtedly bore 
their share of the tragedy and suffering which inflamed humanity. In 
acknowledging their pains the victorious ^Jies chose to compensate them 
through the generous bestowment of a 'homeland' on territory which be- 
longed neither to this party nor to that, in the process forcing millions of 
the land's original inhabitants to endure the desolate existence of a refugee. 
By then the efforts to secularise Christianity and Judaism, to convert them 
into mere symbols of little import in, had made considerable 
headway. But removing God, religion, and history from Muslim minds 
proved to be a greater challenge: even where secularisation did seep in, 
Muslims could not tolerate Israel. Succcss in this field now meant proving 
that all references to Jews or to Palestitie within Islamic lcxls were out- 

M ibid, p. 131. Ernpliasis added. 

56 Because (in the \wrds of Rabbi Hertzberg) llie roajority of Zionists no longer 
bciicvc in Judaism .ts a unirying lartor, and look (o a scculariscd notion of 'rcljuilding 
the land' lo liiliil tlKir nccd for a rallyiug ptiiiii. 


right forgeries, 57 and to fbllow the lead of the NT 5 " in cleansing the Qur'an 
of all passages wkkh were perceived as anli-Semitk. 

So longas Muslims hold fast to the Qur'an as Allah's unalterable Word, 
this issue of cleansing remains beyond their reach: in this regard Wans- 
brough set out to 'prove' that the present Qur'an is no longer solely the 
'handiwork of Muhammad,' bui in liici of many communities scattered 
throughoul the Muslim world which developed the text over the course 
of two hundred years. 5S Q_uoting Humphreys: 

Wansbrough hopes to establish two major points: 

* IsSamic scripture - not merely hadith but the Qur'an itself - was 
generated in the course of seetarian controversy over a period of 
more than two centuries, and then fictitiously projected back onto 
an invented Arabian point of origin. 

♦ That Islamic doctrine generally, and even the figure of Muhammad, 
were modelled on Rabbinic Jcwish protorype. 60 

To this wc cari append the contemporary work of Yehuda Nevo and 
J. Koren, who appiy their own revisionist approach to Islamic studtes with 
the most startling resuits. Describing archaeological surveys of Jordan and 
the Arabian Peninsula, they say that although Hellenistic, Nabataean, 
Roman, and Byzantine artefacts have been uncovered, there are no in- 
dications of a local Arab culture in the 6th and early 7th centuries C.E. 

In parlicular, no sixth or sevenih-ccnlury Jahili pagan sites, and no 

pagan sanetuaries such as the Muslim sources deseribe, have been 

57 Shortly after Israel's creation, Rev. Prof. Guillaume 'proved' that the al-Masjid 
al-Atfia which Muslims seemed so attached to was in faet in a tiny village on the out- 
skirts of Makkah, so very far fromjerusalem! [A. Guillaume, "Where was al-Masyid 
al-Aqsa", al-Andalus, Madrid, 1953, pp. 323-336.] 

. i!i See Holy Bible< Conleinpot/iry Englis/i Vetsion, American Rible Society, New York, 
1995; Joseph BU-nkinsopp "The Comemporary English Version: Inaccuraie Traiislalion 
Tries to Soften Antijudaic. Sentiment," KMe Revieiv, vol. xii, no. 5, Oct. 1996, p. 42. 
In ihe same issue: Barclay Ncwman, "CEV's Chief Translaior: VVe Wcre Failhfu! ro 
the Intemion <>r the Texi," ibiil, p. 13. The t*xirnt of these changes is more far-roaching 
than these articles imply; fbr examples reler lo the full diseussion in this work pp. 291-4. 

59 Prof Norman Calder later joined this handwagon, showing that the literary 
works of that period - and not only the Qur'an - were authored by the Muslim 
eommunity as a whole. He theorised that the very famous literary works oC late 2nd 
and 3r<l century seholars such as Aluwatla'ot Imam Malik, al-Mudawwana of Sahnun, 
al-Um of ash-ShaTi'i, al-hharaj by Abu Yusuf and so on, were seholastie texts not 
aulhored l)y any singlc person. JNnrman Calder, Studir.i in Eaily Muslim Jurispruiiena, 
Oxlord Univ. Press, l<l««|. 

''" R.S. Humphn-ys, Islamic HLtmy, p. 84. 


found in the Hijaz [western Arabia] or indeed anywhere in the area 
surveyed.... Furthcrmore, the archaeological work has revealed no Irace of 
Jewish settkmenl at Medina, Kaybar or Wadi al-Qtura. Both these points 
cotnrast directly with the Muslim litcrary sources' descriptions of the 
demographic composition of the pre-Islamic Hijaz. 1 ' 1 

Korcu and Nevo daiin duit, by contrast, a pk- (I ioni of cvidcnce for 
paganism exists in the Central Negev (southern Paiestine), an area dis- 
rcgarded by Muslim sources. EwavaU'd shrines indicate that paganism 
was still practiced therc until the outset of the Abbasid icign (mid-eigluh 
century C.E.), meaning that a considerable region of the Negev main- 
tained its pagan idenlily ihrough (hc lirst 150 yearsol" Islam. These shrines, 
and thc surrounding topography, are highly analogous (they allegc) to the 
descriptions of Hejazi pagan sites as quoted by Muslim sources. 

Thus thc archaeological evidence indicalcs that lho pagan sanetuarirs 
desrribed in the Muslim sources did not exisf in the Jahili Hijaz, bu t 
sanetuaries strongly resembling them did cxist in thc Central Negev 
until soon after thc Abbasids came lo power. This in lurn suggcsls ikal the 
accounts of Jahili religion in the Hijaz could vseli be back-projections of a paganism 
aciually knownfmm htter and elsewhere. 6 '* 

If we accept Koren and Nevo's assertion, that there is no proof of 
Jewish settlements in Hcjaz during thc titne of thc Prophct, thc logica! rcsult 
would be the denial of aH'the verses relai ing to Jews since they could not 
possibly have been 'authored' by Muhammad. The Muslim community 
must therefore have appcnded them at a later stage and lalscly claimcd 
them as Qur'an; restoring the Book to its 'originaf form (as supposedly 
penned'by Muhammad) requires the prompt removal of these fraudulent, 
anti-Semitic passages. And, if we believe that the pre-Islamic paganism 
cited in the Qur'an and tunna is simpiy a fictitious back-projection of a 
culture that flourished in southern Paiestine, then by extension the figure 
of Muhammad himself becomes questionable. A back-projcction perhaps 
of the ancient remnants of rabbinical presence in Paiestine, making Koren 
and Nevo's remarks a perfect fit with Wansbrough's theories. In this way 
Muslims become indebted to Judaism for providing the fictitious basis of 
their very identity and historicaJ origins, which in tur n serves as further 
motivation for the abolishment of alt verses reproachingjewry. 

61 J. Koren and Y.D. Nevo, "Meihodologkal Approaches lo Islamic Studies", Der 
Islam, Band 68, Heft L 1991, p. 101. Emphasis addcd. 
•>2 ibid, p. 102. Empliasis added. 


5. Conclusion 

Most Muslim countrics surrounding Israel have bcen made to understand 
the urgeney of changing their school curriculum, to eliminate any poim 
which arouses passions that are distasteful toJews. M But the Qur'an re- 
mains an obstaele: a Book that frequently citesjewish intransigence and 
disobedience, and vvhose verses wet the lips of schoolchildren, of con- 
gregations 'm mosques, of the penitent Muslim at night with his Mushaf, 
and in almost every aspect of iife. Understanding the motives that drive 
the present research on the Qur'an is a must, that the produets of such 
research may not cateh the reader unawares. 

Smtgncll and Delitzsch's research onjewish themes is now considered 
void because of allegations of anti-Semitism. The Israel Antiquities Depart- 
ment judges qualifications based on its vision of ideological compatibility. 
Yet every Christian, Jew and atheist who engages in wilful Hes to under- 
mine the precepts, elegance, history, and future prospects of Islam is 
allovved to consider himself a sheikh, to believe that Muslims are beholden 
to his objecu'vity and obliged to accept his findings. This is indefensibie. 
Why are the academic dismissals they unleash against anti-Semites, 64 not 
applicable to those vvlio distori Islam for ulterior gains? Why should non- 
Musfims be deemed authorities to the exclusion of praetising Muslims? 
Why should mm of the C'liurrli Mingana, CJuillaiimc, Watt, Andcrson, 
Lammanse, and a horde of others who wish nothing more heartily than to 
see their veligion eclipse Islam - be regarded as ihe Standard in 'unbiased' 
Islamic research? Why should Muir be considered an authority on the 
Prophet's life, when he writes that the Qur'an is among "the most stubborn 
enemies of Civilisation, Liberty, and the Truth which the World has yet 
known"? 65 

63 As a casc in point - based on my information from Jordan - Israel recently asked 
some of its neighbouring Arab countries (as pan of the peace process paekage) to 
eliminate all curriculum references to the Crusades, Salahuddm al-Ayyubi (Saladdin), 
and his re-conqueri«g of al-Quds 0erusalem). 

61 The term 'anti-Semite' itself is a conscious misrepresentation for anti-Judaic, since 
the overwbelming majotity of Semttes for the past fourteen centuries have been Muslims! 

* 5 As quoted in M. Broomhalt, islam in Chiiui, New Impression, London, 1987, p. 2. 

Ghapter Twenty 

Anyone writing about Islam must initiaUy decide whether or not he believes 
in Muhammad as a prophet. Scholars who acknowledge him as a genuine 
messenger, the noblest of all prophets, enjoy an incredible Iibrary of kadiths 
and divine revelations froni which lo draw their inspiration. By necessity they 
will share innumerable similarities, even tota! agreement on fundamental 
issues; whatever minor variations arise due to shifting circumstances are 
entirely natural and human. Those refusing this viewpoint however, must 
by extension see Muhammad as a deluded madman or a liar bearing false 
claims of prophethood. This is the adopted stance of all non-Muslim scholars, 
through which their efforts are filtered: if they did not set out to prove 
Muhammad's dishonesty or the Qur an's fallacy, what would hinder them 
from accepting Islam? 

In Islamic affairs, Western research transcends mere subjectivity tomani- 
fest itself as anti-Islamic dogma. Its view is bom in regal ancestry: intense 
rivalry of religions, centuries of crusades, the colonisauon of Muslim lands, 
and a colonial pride that blossomed into an overt contempt for the customs, 
beliefs, and the very history of MusJims. To this we may add the more recent 
motives: encouraging secularism to promote global Jewish assimilation and 
ensure Israel's territorial integrity. And along these ancestral lines their efforts 
may well continue, attacking the Qur'an as a communal work just as their 
forefaihers made much use of the cnlightened term 'Muhammadans', as 
though Muslims prostrated before a golden idol of that name. 

The maxim of Ibn Sirln (d. 1 10 A.H.) holds greater urgency today than 
ever before: 

This knowledge [of rdigion] constitutes faith, so be wary of whom yon 
acquire your knowledge from. 1 

This means that on islamic issues - whether the Qur*an, tafsir, hadith, 
ftqk, history, ... etc.— only the writings of a practising Muslim are worthy of 
our attention. These may then be accepted or rejected according to their 

> Muslim, Salfih,\:H. 

342 'l 'H li H ISTC >RY ( ) I- TU K Q.UR A N 1 ( : TKNT 

merits. 2 But as to individuais who clearly hail from outside the community, 
their motives concealed behind a slender facade of sincerity, we can only 
meet them with rejcclion. Neither can we makc them sheikhs of Islam,-' nor 
can wc accept their claims to that liile. 

In news coverage of President Clinton's impeachmcnt trial a few years 
ago, I cannot once recall a tcnnis player or thcatre rritic bcing askcd for his 
or her %«/opinion on this case, even though copies ol" thc United States 
Constitution are available for all to read. Legal discussions werc rightfully 
limited to lawyers, professors of constitutional law, atid so foith. Neither 
did professors of law from elsewhere participate, since this was an internal 
predicament for the United States. Sadly, this is far from how Islam is treated. 
Can a fiim reviewer, having read the Constitution and listened to lawyers 
during news coverage, expect his legal opinion to carry scholarly weight? 
No, but people from outside relevant academic circles, such as Toby Lester, 
voice their opinions in articles which then gain scholariy status. Oocs the 
German professor of law have the clottt to appear on television and instruct 
the American people on how to rim //«.'«-judicial system? No, but Western 
seholars feel obliged lo instruct Muslims as to how tliey must interpret their 
own religion. 

Allah remains supreme whether we livc in the first, twenty-first or last 
century, and whoevcr seeks to dethronc Him, however self-assuredty, burns 
only himself without touching a single fibre of His Glory. No one can be 
foreed to believe in the Cntr'an's sanetity; people must settle on their own 
paths as they alone will bear the future consequcnces of their decds. But 
here, in this life, no outsider addressing Muslims and passing judgment 
on their faith and scholarship should find his words faliing on attentive 
cars. If such is not the case today then Muslims must take their faii* share 
of the blame. 

2 Even non-Muslims seeking to learn about Islam should begin by reading the 
Muslim lueralure. Wlicn university students wish lo study socialism for instance, they 
always start with the essentiai manifestos to coroprehend the general subject before, 
perhaps, moving on to critfcjues of socialist theory. The saine seheme applies to Biblical 
studies. So for students or Islamic studies to begin and end their ficld of knowlcdgc with 
Western wrilings, to almost completeiy ignoic the irndilional .\ (uslim somees and simply 
cxpand on what Western revisionisin is leaching, is wholly absurd. 

:< Back in the early 90's while teaching at Princeton University. an inridcnt led mc 
to rediscover the imporUiiice of Ibn Sirin's statement. Thc head of the Depl. of Rcligious 
Studies, Prof. L. Udovich, ajewish seholar well-vcrsed in Arabic and Islamic Jurispru- 
dence (and a colleague widi whoin I was on good terms), told mc jokingly, "i know 
Arabic -m<lfiqh so I am asheikh." This disturbed me considerably; I did not know how 
to get out of ^uch a possible seenario of non-Muslims deikeringfatwas (legal opintons) 
in the future. Aiter a few days' search I stumbled upon this golden ruic, and have grate- 
fully remembercd it since. 


We live in diflicult times, and diflicult times may well lie ahead; Allah 
knows best. One or two decades ago the notion of Western scholars forcing 
Muslims to excise a)l Qur'anic references tojews might have appeared far- 
feiched to some, bui now the realities of our era blanket us with the vigour 
of a hailstorm. VVhat the scholars did theoretically, their governmcnts are 
nowpursuing relentlessly, and their eflbrts take tangible shape all around us. 
Western intervention in the Islamic curricuKtm; forced auditing and closures; 
dircctives which opcnly call Ibr purging the Qur 'an of all rderericcs to jiftad 
or anything unfavourable towards Christians andjews; vague personalities 
with Arabic-sounding surnames (whosc names 1 will not mcntion as they 
deser\'e no publicity), claiming things about Islam which no Muslim has 
claimed before; 'terrorism experts' who appear on international newsfeeds 
to pronoimce their judgments on Muslim texts; secularist Turkey seen as 
the ideal worth aspiring to, whik conservative governments loom as an 
impending threat. On all levels, the Qur'an is under assault as never before. 

What lies ahead is a mystery kept with Allah, but the least we must do 
is to understand the principles of our religion and the essentials which do 
nol vary with time. Among thcse must be our reverence for the Qur'an. 
Any piece of text which differs from the Mushaf in our hands, regardless 
of %vhat it claims to be, is not and can never be part of the Qur'an; likewise, 
any atlempt by non-Muslims to dictate to us the precepts and legit imacy of 
our own religion must be dismissecl outright. Whatever the political climate, 
Muslim views on the Holy Book must remam firm: it is the Word of Allah, 
constant, immaculate, unaltcrable, inimitable. 

, jl+Jij JJJt^U /$ »i* jiJ : J y, m *» Jj~» o^w : JU , tfj i ji ^i ^ 

Tamim ad-Dari relates, "I heard the Prophet say, '[This religion] will 
reach the expatises of the day and night, and Allah will not leave off 
any house of mud nor wool [i.e. 'm the city or countryside] till He has 
introduccd this religion into it, either through the giory of the honour- 
able or the ignobilky of the dishonourable. Such is the honour that 
Allah will bestow on Islam, and the debasement that He will cast on 

'^'3 J »J> -**i O' V} 2il 5.G3 Xt*''^. j& jj> ijif£4 O 1 -djsMj. f 

» ihti H.inhal, Mmnad, iv:l(W, hadilli no. lo'<»8. 
* Q.ur'an 9:32-33. 


"Tkey seek to extinguish tiie [guidingj radiance of Alld/i witli their moutlis, 
and Allah refuses bui to compkte His radiance regardkss oj how abhorrent 
thal is lo those who disbelieve. Il is He Who senlforth His messmger with 
guidance and Ihe religion oj trulh, l/ial He may ekvate it above allfalse 
belufs, however abhorrent Ikat may be to those who ascribe partners to 


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Aaron. See Harun 
Abbou.Nabia, 516-8, 120 
abbreviation in eariy mushafs, 131-5 
'Abdu, Muhammad, 7 
'Abdul Rahman bin Hisham, 89 
'Abdul-A'la bin Hakam al-Kilabi, 97 
'Abdul-Dar, 21 
'Abdul-Fauah a!-QadT, 94 
'Abdul-Fattah ash-Shalabi, 131 
'Abdul-Hakam bin 'Atnr al-Jumahi, 107 
'Abdullah bin 'AbbSs 

on arrangement of verses, 72 

committee for compilation of Qur'an, 

liadilh on ineril of lisicning lo Qur'Sn, 

on origin of Arabic characters, 1 20 

on placement of verses of the Qur'Sn, 

on rcciiation with Jibril, 52 

recognition of Ibn Mas'ud's scholar- 
ship, 202 

on recording of the Qur'an, 67-68 

on rcvelatioti of Qur'an, 45 

on trade in mushafs, 106 
'Abdullah bin 'Abdul-Muttalib, 22 
'Abdullah bin Ahmad bin al-Khashshab, 

'Abdullah bin 'Awr, 58, 89 
'Abdullah bin al-Arqam, 59 
'Abdullah bin Mas'ud 

among the authority reciters, 197 

bdiefsof, 201-2 

cxclusion friiiii 'Uthman's commiltee, 

as first teacher of Qur'an, 60 

hadith on reciting the Qur'an, 56 

humility of, 200-201 

irregular mushaf, 72 

Searnt directly from the Prophet, 62, 

on oral transmission of Qur'an, 1 48 
ordered to teach Qur*an with Quraishi 

dialect, 87-88 
Orientalist use of aberrant narrations 

concerning Mushaf of, 160-1 
personal mushaf, 97 
on recitation with Jibril, 52 
sent to Kufa, 85 
on trade in mushafs, 105-6 
unanimous praise for, 200 
Set also Ibn Mas'ud's Mushaf 

'Abdullah bin Mughaffal al-Muzam", 63 

'Abdullah bin Sa'd bin Abl as-Sarh, 68 

'AMullah bin as-Sa'ib, 94 

'Abdullah bin Sa'Td bin al-'As, 62 

'Abdullah bin Salam, 62 

'Abdullah bin 'Umar, 57, 89, 107 

'Abdullah bin az-Zubair, 89, 90 

'Abdul-Muttalib, 2 J -22 

'Abdur-Rahman bin 'Auf 
convcrsion of, 26, 59 
describfd as being 'adi, 1 72 

'Abdur-Rahman bin Khalid bin a!-' As, 

'Abdur-Rahman bin YazTd, 200 

'Abdur-Razzaq (mufassir), 191 

'Abdur-Ra2z5q, Musannaf of, 180 

' Abdus-SabSr ShahTn, 1 76 

Abijah, 221 

Abiram, 217 

Abraham. See Ibrahim 

Abu 'Abdur-Rahman as-Sulami, 94 

Abu al-'Alii' al-HamdhanT al-'Altiir, 192 

Abu al-'Aliya, 107 

Abual-Aswad ad-Du'ali, 139-40, 144-5 

Abu Bakr as-Siddiq 

compilation of Qur'an, 78-81, 305 
conversion to Islam, 26, 59 



caliphaie of, 35-37 

Imamate of, 56-57 

migration to Madinah, 30 

prevented from rcciting Qur'5n, 50 
Abu Bakr bin 'Ayyash, 1 53 
Abu ad-Darda', 85-86, 99, 192, 197 
Abu Hayyan an-Nahawi, 1 97 
AbQ Huraira 'Abdur Rahman ad-Dawsi 

hadith illustrating proliferation of 
knowlcdge, 169-71 

hadith on sccking knowledge, 55 

on recitation with Jibril, 52 
Abu Ishaq, 200 

battle of Badr, 32 

eavcsdropping the Prophct, 49 
Abfi Khuzaima al-Ansari, 84, 9 1 
Abu Lu'tu'a, 86 
Abu Mas'ud al-Ansan, 56 
Abu Mas'ud al-Badrt, 72 
AbQ Muhammad al-Himmani, 104 
Abu Musa al-Ash'ari, 86, 97, 197 
Abu al-Qasim bin bint Ahmad bin 

Mani', 184 
Abu al-Qasim bin Muhammad, 184 
Aba Qjl3ba, 96 
Abu Raja.' al-'Ataradt, 86 
Abu Sa'Td al-Khudan, 63 
Abu Sa'id, 182 

Abu Salama, 59 

AbG. Sufyan bin Harb 

battle of Badr, 32 

conversion of, 34 

cavesdropping the Prophet, 49 
Abu Talib bin 'Abdul-Muttaiib, 28 
Abu 'Ubaid,'90, 146 
Abu "Ubaidah bin al-Jarrah, 37, 59, 64 
Abu Umayya, 24 
Abu Wa'il, 202 
Abu Yusuf, 178 
Abu Zaid, Nasr, 7, 9, 207 
accuracy of hadith narrators, 1 74-5 
ad-Dani, Abu 'Amr, 94, 134-5, 140, 148 
ad-Du'ali, Set Abu al-Aswad ad-Du'ali 
adh-Dhahabi, Muhammad bin Ahmad, 

Adoptionism, 277, 289 
adultery, accusations of against Jesus, 


'adi (muhaddithin term), 1 72, 1 75 
'Allan, 174-5 
Africa, 15 

Africa, early creed of, 274 
Ahab, 220 
Ahaz, 222 
Ahaziah, 222 

Ahijah, 219 

Ahmad bin Hanbal, xx, 1 78, 183-4 

Ahmad, 'Abdur-Razzaq, 125 

al-Ahinar, 'Abdullah bin Husain, xxi 

ahraf, 154 

/\hs5' (eastern region of the Arabian 

peninsula), 123 
'Ain at-Tamr, 36 

A'inna (early Makkan institution), 21 
'A'isha bint Abi Bakr 

hadith on leading the prayer, 56 

on revelation of Qur'an, 46 

revclation concerning slandcr of, 47 

suhuf of, 90-91 
Akbar (Moghul emperor), 267 
al-Akhnas bin Sharlq, 49 
Akiba, Rabbi, 246-7 
al-Akwa', al-QadI Isma 1 ]!, xxi, 12 
al-'Ala' bin al-Hadraml, 36 
Alexander the Great, 224, 231 
Alexandrian text, NT text type, 283 
'Ali bin Abi Talib 

among the authority reciters, 1 97 

hadith on learning the Qur'an, 56 

mushaf attributed to, 132 

Oriemalist usc of aberrant 
narrat ions concerning, 1 60 

remains in Makkah, 30 

support for 'Uthman, 88, 94 
'Ali bin Asma' 103 
'Ali bin Husain, 1 05 
Allah (Almighty), attributcs of, 42-43 

early Arabic, 122-4 

invention of the first, 232 

Mingana's theory on Arabic, 1 15-6, 
122-3, 143-5 

Phoenician, 1 1 5 

Phoenician-Old Hebrew, 234 
l Alqama, 106,202 
al-A'mash, 176, 198,200 
al-Ainin, 24 



Amin, Ahmad, 7 

Amina bint Wabb, 22, 2+ 

'Amir bin 'Abd Qais, 94 

amending errors in musbafs, 96-97 

Amon, 223 

'Amr bin Salima ai-Jarmi, 56 

'Amr bin Um-Makluin al-A'ma, 69 

'Amr bin al-'As, 36, 37 

'Amr bin Murra, 106 

Amram, 214 

Amuru, 15 

Amwal muhajjara (early Makkan 
institution), 2 1 

Anas bin Malik, 64, 89, 96, 1 76 

Anbar (city), 36 

angels, 57 


establishment of Aws and Kharaj, 18 
support of in battie of Badr, 32-33 
as teachers of the Qur'an, 63-64 

Antiochus, 225 

anti-Semitism, 321-3, 339 

apostasy, 35 

'Aqaba, pledge of, 29-30 

Arabian peninsula, 15 


diacritical marks, 139-41 
dotting schemes, 1 35-9 
eariy Arabic alphabet, 1 22H- 
early Christian Arabic manuscripts, 

history of the Arabic characiers, 

inscriptions on coinage, 1 28 
irregularitics in non-Qur'Snic script, 

suitability of for Divine revelaiion, 1 64 

Arabs, 15-16 

as tribal society, 20-2! 
pre-Isiamic religions, 22- 23 

Aramaeans, 143 

Aramaic Nabatean script, 115, 117 
compared with Arabic, 1 18-20 
language of the Nabateans, 1 20- 1 

Aramaic, 232-3 

archival of suhuf, 84-85 

'ard (miihaddithin term), 1 78 

'Ariiija bin Harlhama, 36 

Ark of the israelites, 2 ! 8, 228-9 

Arkoun, Muhammad, 7, 207 

Armenia, !5, 87 

As'ad bin Zurara, 60 

Asa, 222 

ascension, 297-8 

asceticism, 289 

al-Asfahanl, 192 


Ashnaq (early Makkan institution), 2! 

'Asim al-Jahdari, 103 

'Asim bin Abi an-Najfld, 161 

assassination attempt on the Prophet, 30 

Assyrian rule of Judah, 222 

Assyrian script, 234 

Assyriology, 321 

astigmatism, 288 

al-Aswad al-'Ansi, 36 

al-Aswad, 202 

Aswan, tombstone, 1 25 

atba 1 at-tabi'Tn, 177 

Atharof Abu Yusuf, 178 

Atjeyhnese people, 327 

Atlantic Monthly, The, 3 

atonement, 297 

Aws(tribe), 18,31 

'Awwad, K, 116,316 

ayah (verse) separators, 102, 111-4 

Aysar (early Makkan institution), 2 1 

Azerbaijan, 87 

Baal, worship of in Israel, 220, 222-3 

Babylon, 15, 224 

Babylonian Talmud, 226 
alteration of text, 235 
pointing (vocafeation), 247-9 

Badr, prelude to the battie, 32-33 

Bahrain, 36 

Bakr(tribe), 34 

baptism, 296 

al-Baqillam, 199 

Bar Kochba, 252 

Bara', 6! 

al-Bara'a, sura, 83-84 

Barthelemy d'Herbelot, 330 

Basetti-Sani, 1 1 

basmala, as sura separator, 109 

Basru (city), 85 

Bathsheba, 218-9, 229 



batil (muhaddithln term), 202 

baitles, 3 i -32 

Bayt al-Qaratis, ] 66 

Bellamy, James, 7, 318 

Bcnhadad, 222 

Benjamin, 2 1 4 

Bcrgstrasser, G., 8, 81, 206, 304 

Beih-Shemesh, 229 

Bi'r Ma'una, 64 


200,000 variants found in, 303 
authorship of the gos|>c!s, 280- 1 
as basis for Orientalist siudy of Arabic, 

Biblical scholarship compared lo 

Islamic, 207 
compared with the Qur'an, 54 
contemporary corruption of the text, 

Contemporary English Version of, 

doctrincs and corruption, 295-8 
edited duning Hcllenistic period, 231 
Erasmus Bible, 290-1 
examplcs of deliberate corruption of, 

history according to modern seholars, 

iuspirulion, 281-2 
Leningrad Codex, 238-40 
loss and rediscovery of Torah, 228-30 
loss of the original gospel, 66 
Masoretic texts, 238-40 
oldest dated mamiscript, xvi-xvii 
relcrciiccs to Prophel Muhammad, 262 
study of, compared with study of 

Qur'an, 161 
iruiislatinus, 294 
See also New Testament; Old 
Testament; Gospels 

Btlrd bin Rabfih, « 1 , 82 

Billsah, 214 

Bin Sira, 234 

Bishr bin Husain, 1 74 

BlachtVc, R., 81, 162, 208, 309^10 

Black Sioiie, 24 

Blau, 119 

Blenkinsopp, Joscph, 29 1 

Bobzin, Hartmul, 319 

books, preserving from adulteratiors. 

Booth, holiday of, 228 • 
Bosworth, C. E., xviii 
boycott of the Muslims. Quraish, 28-29 
Bright, John, 322 
Bucaille, Maurice, 267. 281. 295 
al-Bukhart, Muhammad bin Ismail, 178 
By^antinc tcxt, NT text lypc, 284 

Caesarcan text, NT text type, 283 

Caldcr, N., 9 

Canaan, 212, 218, 260-1 

Canaanite, 234 

Camineau, J., 118-20 

certilicates of reading, 1 84 9 1 

chain of authority, 156, 159. Seealso isnad 

Chestcr Beatty, 114 
Chicsa, Bruuo, 247 
child saerifice, 222- 3 
Christian Arabic maiiuscripts, 1 16 

aioncmcm, 297 

attempu lu evangelise pre-Islamic 
Arabia, 22-23 

authorship of the gosi«ls, 280-1 

deansed of anii-Semitic rcfcrcnccs, 

compared to Islam, 41, 54 

creeds, 273-5 

disciplcs of Jcsus, 269-72 

doctrines and corruption of the Bible, 
295 8 

carly and laler ereeds compared, 
274 5 

carly pructiccs and ht licls, 277 

Hcllenistic intluence on docirinc, 296 

influence of sects on the NT, 289 

inlcrpolations inlo lcxts, 1 82 

life of Jcsus from secondary sourccs, 

message of rcpeiilauce, 272 6 

licrsecution of carly Ghrislians, 276 

sccuiarisaliriii, II) 

the term 'Christian', its mcanitig, 
275- 6 

See also Bible; New Testament 




clnssification of hadith narrators, 175-7 

Clinlon, Bill, 3+2 

code of Hammurabi, 235 

coinage, 128 

colonialism, 8, 331-3 

Comfort, P. W., 281-2, 289, 297 

Comma Johanneum, 284, 290-1, 295 


arrangemem of the Qvir'an, 73 

considered possessed of 'adi, 1 77 

dedication of 39 

development of tsnad systcm, 1 67-7 1 

huffaz, 64-66 

as teachers of the Qur'an, 60-61, 
compilation of Qur'an 

'Uthman's recompilaiion, 88-97 

diiring reign of Abfl Bakr, 78-8 1 

juslillcation for, 77 

nielhodology of, 81-85 

Orientalis) criticism of, 304-5 

suhuf, 84-85 
conqucst of Maltkah, 34—35 
Constantine (Roman emperor), 276 
Contemporary English Vcrsion of the 

Bible, 291 
Cook, Michael, 6-7, 10-1 1 
copyist errors, 151, 182 
Coiilson, N. J., 333 
Ctmiieil oTJumniit, 241 
Cragg, Kmiieth, 11,318 
Crone, Patrieia, 5-7, 9 
Cross, l'rank, 241 2, 253 
Crucifixion, sviii 

Daba (city), 36 

Daif, Sha'uql, 81,94 

dam of Muftwiya. 126, 138 

Damastns dnniiiu'iit. 22!) 

Daimisi iis, 37, 85 

Dan, 214 

Diuliiin, 217 

Davey. Noel, 280 

David. See Dawud 

Davidson, R., 144 5 

Davies, fteier, 231 

Davila,J. R.,253 

Dawud (David), 41, 218-9, 229* 

Dead Sea Scrolls, 251-6 
Damascus document, 229 
dismissal of Strugnell, 322-3 
seerecy surrounding, 324 
Delitzsch, Friedrich, 321 
Demsky, Aaron, 228 
Dhakwan, 60 
Dhi'b, Muhammad, 253 
Dhul-Qassa (city), 36 ' 
diacritical marks 

invention of, 139-41 

sources of, 143-5 

in the Talmud, 247-9 

two sehemes of, 1 4 1 2 
dialecu, 62-63 

ahruf, 154 

disputes in recitation, 87-88 

hadith of the seven dialects, 1 53 

See also muliiple readings 
Diem, 119 

diffusion of hadith compilations, 1 87-9 1 
disciples of Jesus, 269-72 
dissension, avoiding, 58-59 
dittography, 151, 243 
Docetism, 277 
Dodd.C. H., 230-1 
dotting sehemes, 135-9, 151-9 
Driver, Professor, 256 
DushiT, 'Ali, 7 

earlyjewish seript, 234 

Edom, 258-60 


charging for, 55-56 
encouragement to learn, 55 
learning from non-Muslims, 56 
in Madinah, 6 1 -62 
role of 'Umar in spread of Qur'an, 

85 86 
seeking knowledge, 1 66 


Egyptian Ghurch Order, 274 

Ehiman, Bart D., 151,277 

Elisha, 220 

endowmcnts, confiscation of, 331 

English, 129 

envy, when permissible, 57 

Epislola Aposlolorum, 274 



equal status, concept of, 196 

Erasmus Bible, 290-1 

Esau, 212, 258-60 

Estrangelo, 1 1 6 

Ethiopia, 27, 60 

Europe, 15, 330 

Euting, J., 115 

cxegeticai commentary, 1 62-3 

Exodus, 2 1 6 

E/.ra, 224 

Fadak (city), 18 

al-Fad) bin Shadhan, 196 

al-Falaq, sura, 199 

al-Fatiha, sura, 199 

Fatima bint al-Khattab, 61, 67 

Fatima, daughtcr of thc Prophct, 52, 201 

Fazlur-Kahman, 7 

Festival ofShelters, 217 

Fihr, tombstone of, 1 18 

fiqh, influence of on the Talmud, 250-1 

ai-Firabri, 182 

Fischman, Dennis, 334 

fitna, 168 

Fltlgcl, 308-9 

folklore, use of isnads in, 1 9 1 

al-Frahccdt, Khalil bin Ahmad, 140-2, 

145, 248 
Freud, Sigmund, 335 
Frost, David, 334 
al-Funaisan, Sa'ud, 148 
Funk, Robert, 267-8 

Gabrici- See Jibril 


Geigcr, Abraham, 8 

Genesis, 256-8 

German, 130 

gharib hadiths, 177 

al-Gas$Snl, Muhammad bin 'Ubaid, 139 

Ghassanid kingdom, 18 

Ghifar (tribe), 153 

Gibb, 332 

glosses, 182 

God.See Allah 

Gokalp, Ziya, 10 

goldencalf, 216-7 

Goldzihcr, Ignace 

criticism of hadith and isnad, 332 
on altering a word for its synonym, 

second phase of attack on Islam, 8 
theory of divergen! readings, xx, 115, 
151, 155 9 

Goshen-Gottstcin, Moshc, 248 


asiri isiori ■>!' Oluisl, 297 K 
aulhoi s of, 280 - 1 

comma Johanneum, 284, 290-1, 295 
difficulties of using as historical 

documem, 266-7 
inspirat ion, 28 1 -2 
loss of, 66 

oldest dated manuscripls, xvi-xvii 
Q,gwpeJ, 277, 279-80, 296 

Grcek Orlhodox Churdi, 284 

Greek religion, 225 

Grcek scripts, 285-8 

Grucndlcr, Beatrice, 1 15, 1 18-21, 128 

Guardi brothers, 319 

Guidi, 143 

Guillaume, A., 309-10 

Habakkuk, 216 


applying principlcs of to Christian 

!exis, 207 
authentication of, 172-7 
classification of narrators, 175-7 
development of isnad system, 1 67-7 1 
establishing authorship of 

compilations, 182-4 
impact of on other sciences, 191-2 
meticulous documemalion of, xviii 
prescrving hadith books from 

adulteraiion, 178-84 
reading ccrtificates, 184—91 
resolving contradictions, 1 76 
testing accuracy of narrators, 1 74-5 
transmission of compilations, 187-91 
Hadramout, 36 
al-Hafad, 203 
Hafsa bint 'Umar 

duplication of suhuf of, 88 
entrustcd with thc suhuf, 86 



suhuf compared wilh 'Uthman's 
compilation, 92-93 
Hajar (Hagar), 16, 21 1-2, 256 
al-Hajjaj bin Yusuf al-Thaqaf! 

accuscd of aliering the Qur'an, 102-3 

credited with compilation of Qur'an, 

disirihutinn of mushaf*, 104 

divisions of ilic Ojir'nn, 105, 1 14 
al-Hajri, tombstone, 125-6 
Hakim bin Hizam, 34 
al-Hamadam, 202 
Haman, 306-7 
Hamidullah, M., 38 
Hammad bin Salama, 174-5, 203 
Hammurabi, code of, 235 
al-Hamqatikin (city),"36 
Ham/.a bin 'Abdul Muttalib, 2? 
ha-Nasi, Rabbijudah, 250 
Huni' a!-Barbari, 90 
haplography, 151,243 

al-Harith bin al-A'war, 58 
al-Harhh bin Hisham, 46 
harmonisation, 289 
Harran, 118, 122 
Harun (Aaron), 2 1 6 ■■ 7 
Harun bin 'Umar, 91 
al-Hasan, 200 
Hasan, 'Izzat, 143, 148 
Hashim clan, boycott of, 28-29 
Healy,J.E, 119 
Hebrew, not original language of Torah, 

232— t 
Hejazi script, xvi, i 16, 159 
Hellenism, 296 
Hcllenistic rule of the Israelites, 224-6, 

Heraclius, letter to, 1 23-4 
Hcrtzberg, 335 
Hezekiah, 223 

HijSha (carly Makkan institution), 21 
Hilkia, 223 
Hillel, 237 
Hims (city), 37, 85 
Hira (Kufa), 18, 36 
Hira (cave), 25 

Hiraql (Heraclius), letter to, 123-4 
Hirschfeld, 307 

Hisham bin Hakim, 62, 152 
history, use of isnads in, 191 
homoioteleuton, 243-4 
homosexuality, accusations against Jesus, 

Hort, 303 

Hoskyns, Edwyn, 280 
Hubba bint Hulail, 19 
Hudaibiya peace treaty, 34 
Hudaij bin Mu'awiya, 105 
Hudhaifa bin al-Yaman, 88, 97 
Hudhaifa bin Mihsin al-Ghalafani, 36 
Hudhail, dialect of, 87 
huflaz, 64-66 

preservation of the Qur'an, 165, 305 

role in compilation of Qur'5n, 83 
Hukuma (early Makkan institution), 21 
Hulwan-un-nafr (early Makkan 

institution), 2 1 
Humphreys, R. S., 6-7, 332, 337 
Hunain bin Ishaq, 143, 145, 248 
Hurgronje, Snouck, 8, 326-7 
al-Husain, 200 
Husain, Taha, 7 
hypocrites, 31 

'Ikrima bin Abijahl, 36, 37, 132 
'Imaratul-bait (early Makkan institution), 

'Isa (Jesus) , 

accusations of homosexuality and 
adultery, 269 

ascension, 297-8 

crucifbdon, xviii 

discipiesof, 269-72 

cstablishing extstence of, 265-9 

finite scope of message, 41 

idea of divinity of absent from Q, 
gospel, 279-80, 29fi 

language of, 268 

lili: of, from secondary sourccs, 266- 8 

message of repentance, 272-6 

non-Christian references to, 266 

witnesses of burial and resurrection, 
i'lam (muhaddithin term), 1 79 
Ibn 'Abbas. Sa 'Abduliah bin 'Abbas 
Ibn Abi an-Najud, 153 



IbnAblDawud, 161 

IbnAblLaila, 107 

Ibn AbT Shaiba, Musannaf of, 180 

Ibn 'Asakir, 89 

Ibn al-Bawwab, 114, 134-5 

Ibn Hajar al-'Asqalani 

coiiuiiinee for compilalion of Qur'an, 

on Ibn Mas'ud's Mushaf, 201 

on Quraish dialect, 88 

on witncsses, 80 
Ibn al-Hanafiya, 106 
Ibn Hazm, 'Ali bin Sa'id, 201 
Ibn Ishaq, 48-49 
Ibn Main, 168, 174-5 
Ibn Maja, sunan of, 187-91 
Ibn Majishun, 178 

Ibn Miis'ud- See 'Abdullah bin Mas'ud 
Ibn Mas'ud's Mushaf 

alleged variaiions, 195-6 

analysis of contents, 200 201 

arrangement of, 196-7 

attribution of aberrant rcadings, 198 

lack of evidence of variations in, 1 60 

omiltcdsuras, 199-202 
Ibn Micjsam, 205 
Ibn al-Mubarak, 172 
lhn MtijiUiiH,- 153. 156,203 
Ibn al-Musayyib, 106 
Ibn Qudama ai-Maqdisi, 188-91 
Ibn Outaiba, 103 
Ibn as-Sabbagh, 201 
Ibn Shabba, 102, 104 
Ibn Shanhudh, 205 
Ibn Sirin, 13, 88, 145, 168, 341 
Ibn Tariq, 188 
Ibn tim Maklum, 46, 47, 60 
IbnUshta,91, 120, 140 
Ibn "Uyayna *200 
Ibn Wahb, 178, 185 
Ibn Zabala, 104 

Ibn az-Zubair. See 'Abdullah bin az-Zubair 
Ibrahim (Abraham) 

andMakkah, 16-19 

biblical account, 211-2 

building of thc Ka'ba, 1 7 

corruption of O' f texis conccrning, 

prayer of, 44 

prophcfhood, 4! 

sacrifice of Isma'll, 17. 
Ibrahim al-Nakha'i, 105-6, 148 
idolatry, among ihc Israclitcs, 220 -4 
Ifada (early Makkan inslitution), 2 1 
Ijaza (carly Makkan inslitution), 21 
Ijaza (muhaddithm term), 1 79 
Imamate. 56 -57, 204 ' 
imparliality, 327-31 
Imru' al-Kais, 118, 120 
Indonesia, 327 
inhcriiancc, 79 
inspiration, 28 1 -2 
instruetions of 'Uthman, 96-97 
intcrpolalions, 182 
lqlaimis, Yusuf Dawud, 143-5 
Iraq, 36, 102 
incgularitics in non-Qur'anic seript, 

Ishmael. See Isma'll 

bias of modern Orientalisl sludies, 
330 -J 

comparcd to Christianity and Judaism, 

infiuencc onjudaism, 247 51 

perverted view of, 330 

revisionism, 3-9, 327 

sccularisation, 10 

studicd with Western terminology, 
208, 305-6 
Islamic world 

pcrccivcd threat of, 330 

rapid inilitary gains of, 37-39 

revisionism, 7-9 

spread into Persia, 36-37 
Isma'll (Ishmael) 

biblical account, 211-2 

birthof, 16 

language of, 120-1 

prophcthood, 4 1 

sacrifice, 17 

iextual corruption concerning, 256-61 
Isma'll al-Qust, 140 
isnad syslcm 

authentication of isnads, 172-7 



dcvolopmcn» of, 167-71 
extended to protcct books of scholars, 

for qira'at, 203 

impact of on other sciences, 1 9 S -2 
m traiismission of Ojir'sn, 156, 192-3 
personal coniact, 167 
proliferation of haditli, 168-7 1 
rjiiotiug, whrn addinR addilioiial 

material, 182 
rejectcd by Orientalists, 159 
resolving eontrttclkiory hadiths, 1 76 
testing accuracy of narralors, 1 74-5 
unbroken chain, ] 75-6 

Isra 1 . See nocturnal journey 

Israel, 211 

as concept of fantasy, 232 

kings of, 219-21 

languages of, 232- 4 

as motivation for Orienialism, 336 -8 

supprcssion of Palestinian history, 

325 6 
tliird phase of attaek on Islam, 8-9 

Israel ites. Vrjews 

Issaehar, 214 

I mu e Sopherim, 244 5 

Ivas bin Mu'adh, 60 

Jabal Asis, 122 
jabal sala', 123 
Jiibir bin 'Abdullah, 63 
Jacob. See Ya'qfib 

Jacob of Raha, 144 
al-jahiz, 192 
JaiioshapliiU, 222 
James the discipie, 270 
Janji' of Ibn \Vahb, 178, 185 
Jamnia, Counci! of, 24 1 
aljarb wa ai-Ta'dil, 1 75 
Jeflrey, Arthur 

acknowlcdgcment of integrity of the 
Qur'amc iext, 206 

alieged vnriations from Ibn Mas'ud, 

attribution of aberrant readings to 
Ibn Mas'ud, 198 

disregard of isnad system, 159-60 

on Fliigi'l's edilion of Qur'an, 309 

historical works on Qur'an, 304 

on multiple readings of Qur'an, 1 55 -9 

reference to sotirees without isnad, 
159, 195 

second phase of attaek on Islam, 6 

use of Biblical terminology, 208 
Jehoahaz, 223 
Jehoram, 222 
Jeliu, 220 
Jericho, 218 
Jeroboam, 2 1 9 
Jerusalem, 224 
Jesus. Set 'Isa 

after the Inquisition, 334 

ihcArk, 2!8 

Babylon, 224 

child saerifice, 222-3 

compared with the Companions, 39 

disparaging remarks rernoved from 
Bible, 291-4 

early history, 211 8 

early Jewislt scripl, 234 

establishmenl in Madinah, 18 

goldencalf, 216 7 

Hellenistic rule, 224-6 

idolatry among, 220-4 

Jewish scholars, 323 5 

kingdom ol", 218- 26 

kings ol'lsracl, 219-2! 

kings of Judah, 221 4 

kmguagcs of, 232-4 

modernity, 335 

promiscuity among, 220-4 

sehemes for liberation of, 334—5 

taking of Egyptian jewels, 215-6 

treachery, 212-3 

vicws on 'Isa (Jesus), xviii 

Set aho Judaism; Old 'l estament 
Jibril (Gabriel), 47, 52-53, 71, 79, 153, 

jihad, 343 

John of Damascus, 8 * 
John the disciple, 270 
Jordan River, 2 ! 8 
Joseph. See Yusuf 
Josephus, 212, 234, 258, 266 



Joshua, 218, 229 
Josiah, 223, 229 
Judah, 214, 221-4 

altering texts for doctrinal reasons, 

compared to Islam, 4 1 

influence of Islam, 247-5 1 

intcrpotations into texts, 182 

oral faw, 236-8 

corruption of sacred texte, 256-61 

reforms, 222 

See also Jews; Old Testament 
Judas Maccabee, 225 
judas Escariot, 270-1 
Jum'a, Ibrahim, 117, 143 
jurhum {tribe), 16, 120 
Juster, 266 
juz' of Qur'an, i 14 


building oi, 1 7 

custody of, 2 1 

rebuilding of, 24 
kalima shahada, xix 
Kannengiesser, 28 ! 
Karabacek, J., 115 
Karailc movcmcnt, 249 
Kathtr bin Aflah, 89 
al-Kattani, 68 
Katzman, Avi, 322-3 
Kcrygma, 265 

Khabbab bin al-Arau, 61, 67 
KbadJjah birit Kliuwayiid, 24, 48 
Kbatbar (city), 18 
al-Khalii', 203 

Khalid bin 'Anu bin 'Ulluuaii, 104 
Khalid bin lyas, 94, 97 
Khalid bin Sa*Td bin al-'As, 36-37, 68, 

. Khalid bin Walid, 36-37 
Khalid bin Yazld bin Mu'awiya, 107 
Kbalifa bin Khayyat, 192 
Khalid al-Hadhdha\ 145 
Khaffl an-Nfuiii, Y., 1 16 
Khan, Ixh5q, 187 
al-Khattabi, 77 

Khazraj (tribe), 18,31 
Khirbet Qumran, 25 1 

Khoury, Raif G., 146 

Khubaib bin 'Adi al-Ansari, 33 

Khuza'a (tribe), 34 

Khuzaima bin Thabit at-Ansarl, 93 

Kilpatrick, George D., 284 

Kinda (tribe), 18 

kitab al-Ashriba, i 83-4 

Kitab of Ibu Majishiin, 178 

kitaba (muhaddkhln term), 1 78 
-Kiitel, Rudoir, 238 


cncouragemcnt to seek, 55, 1 66 
enormity of concealing, 55 
journeying in search of, 1 68 
learning and teaching the Qur'an, 

See also education 

Koester, Helmut, 273 


Korah, 217 


Kufa (city), 18, 85 

Kuficscript, 115, 159, 125-8 

Kung, Hans, 3 1 8 

Laban, 213 

Lakhm (tribe), 18 
Lambton, 7 
languages, 129-30 

colonialism, 331-2 

of the Israclites, 232-4 
Latin, 130 

law, use of isnads in, 191 
1-euh, 213 4 
Lebedev, V, 238" 
Lemche, Niels Peter, 231 
Leningrad Codex, 238-40 
Lcsicr, Toby, xv, 3-7, 1 1, 314, 342 
letters of the Prophct Muhammad, 123-4 
Lcvi, 214, 228 
Lcvy,M. A., 115 
libra ries, 107 

lingnistic analysis of sacred texls, 9-10 
lilcriiturv, use of isnads in, 1 9 1 
Lutmann, 1 18 



Liwa' (eariy Makkan insihution), 2 1 

Lucian of Antioch, 284 

Luke, 280, 282 

Luling, Gunter, 7 

Lull, Ra>iTiond, 8 

Lunn, Arnold, 269 

Luther, Martin, 8, 269 

Maacah, 222 
Maccabaean dynasty, 225 
Madam Saleh (city), 1 19 

constitution of, 3 ! 

Cragg's rccommendaiion to abandon 
verses rrvealcd in, 3 1 8 

Masjid of Bani Zuraiq, 61 

migration to, 30-32 

Mus'ab bin 'Umair, 61 

plcdge «f 'Ac|aliiih, 29 30 

pre-Islamic Madinah, 1 8 

Ojir'anic education in, 61-62, 166 
Maliara, 36 

al-Mahdi (Abbasid ruler), 1 04 ■ 
Maimonidies, 250-1 
MaimOn al-Aqran, i 40 

building of the Ka'ba, 1 7 

cheifhood of 'Abdul-Muttalib, 22 

conquest of, 34-35 

early institutions, 2 1 

and Ibrahim, 16-19 

spread of Qur'an in, 59- 6 1 

as tribal society, 20-21 

recordings of Qur'an in, 67-68 
Malik bin Abi 'Amir 

compilation of Qur'an, 89-90 

mushaf of, 100 102 

sura separator, 1 09- ! 
Malik bin Anas, 100 
Malik bin Dinar, 132 
Malik, Imam, 134-5, 178, 181, 192 
Manasseh, 223, 237 
manazii of Qur'an, 1 14 
mankind, purpose of, 43 

concept of equa! status, 196 

conditions for using, 181-2 

eariy Christian Arabic manuscripts, 

cstabtishing authorship, 1 82-4 

first century Qur'anic, 316-7 

gradations, 81-82 

handling variations in, 99 

interpolations, 182 

Nuskhat Abu az-Zubair, 1 74 

oidest dated Bible, xvi-xvit 

rarity of Greek NT manuscripts, 

reading certificates, 184—91 
Marcosian creed, 274 
Margoliouth, D. S., 163 
Mark, 280, 282 
Marr az-Zahrfui (city), 34 
Marraci, Luther, 8 
Martyr.Jusiin, 281 
Mara, Kari, xix, 227, 334- 6 
Mary, the blcssed Virgin, 265 
Mashura (eariy Makkan institution), 2 1 
Masjid of Bani Zuraiq, 61 
al-Masri, Amin, 333 
Masorah, 236-40, 246-7, 249 
Masruq, 106,202 
Massoretic text, 227 
Mathew, 280, 282 
memorisation of the Qur'an, 54, 58, 83, 

64-66, 165 
Metzger, Bruce M., 151 
Milik, J. T., 252, 255 
Mingana, A 

distortion of Qur'an, 311-3 

historical works on Qur^an, 303 

inclination towards aberrant opinions, 

on date of compilation of Qur'an, 

refutation of ctaims made by, 143-5 

theory on Arabic alphabet, 1 15-6, 
122-3, 143-5 

theory on Qur'an, 53 

on transmission of hadfth, 1 87 
Minor Prophets scroll, 252, 255 
minuscule script, 285 
al-Miqdad bin 'Amr, 32 
miracles of the Qur'an, 48 
miVaj. See nocturnal journey 



Miriam, 2 1 7 

Mishna, 226, 236-8 

Islamic influence, 250-1 

al-Mizzi,Jamal ad-Dln, 176 

modernity, 335 

Molcch, 223 

Motitefiore, Cannon Hugb, 269 


as i oydilion for narrating hadtth, 1 72 
as condition for teaching, ! 72, ! 93 

Morozov,. N. A., 4, 7 

Moses. See Musa 

Moubarac, Youakim, 1 1 

Mount Gcrizim, 242 

Mu adil bin Jabal, 64, 85 

Mu'arada, 52 

al-Mu'arrij as-Sadusi, 89 

Mu'awiya bin Abl Sufyan, 102, 138, 140 
damor, 126, 138 

mudtarib (muhaddithln term), i 76 
al-Mughira bin Shihab, 94 
al-Mughira bin Shu'ba, 79 
al-Mughnl, 188 
al-Muhabbar, 182 

applying principles of to Christian 
iexts, 207 

lirst generations of scholars, 1 77-8 

mcihodologies of hadtlh 
aathentication, 172-7 

reading certificates, 1 84-9 1 

use of isnad technique to preserve 
books, 178-84 
Muhajir bin Abl Umayya, 36 
Muhammad. See Prophet Muhammad 
Muhammad bin Maslatna, 79 
Muhil, 105 

Muhriz bin Thabit, 104 
Mui'r, Sir William, "5-4, 7, 22, 315 
Mujahid, 107 
mukiple readings 

altering a word for its synonym, 162-3 

Goldziher's theory, 151 

hadltli of the seven dialects, 1 53 

Orientalist theory of divergent 
readings, 155-9 

reason for existencc of, 153 
munawala, 178 

al-Mundhir bin Sawa, letter to, 123-4 

al-Munaggid, S., 105, 143 

Miinster Institute of the New Tcstament 

Textual Research, 317 
Mus'ab bin 'Umair, 61 
Mus'ab bin Sa'd, 94 
Mtisa (Moses), 214-8 

lack of chain of transmission from, 

miraeles, 48 

Torah delivered to Levites, 228 
Musa al-Asadi, 106 
Musa bin Isma'il, 174—5 
Musailaina al-Kadhdliab, 35-36 

of'AlibinAbiTalib, 132 

amending errors, 96-97 

arrangement of suras in partial 
Mushafs, 75-76 

ayah separators, 111-4 

of Basra, 100-101 

burning of fragments, 94 

copies made by 'Uthman, 94 

dating Kufic mushafs, 1 25-8 

determining whether a verse is 
Our'anic, 203-6 

diacritical marks, 139-41 

divisions of the Qur'an, 105 

dotting sehemes, 135-9 

first cenlury manuseripts, 3 1 6-7 

al-Hajjaj's distribution of, 104 

of Ibn al-Bawwab, 134-5 

instruetions of 'Uthman, 96-97 

introduetion of, 84-85 

of Kufa, 100-101 

of Madinah, 100-101 

of Malik bin Abi 'Atnir, 100-102, 

orthography in 'Uthman's mushaf, 

parehments from Yemeni collection, 73 

partial Mushafs, 73-76 

personal Mushafs, 195 

private copies, 101-2 

of Samarqand, 111, 1 28 

ofSana', 112, 141-2 

spelling conventions, 90 

studies on 'Uthman's mushaf, 97-99 



sflra separators, i 09- 10 

of Tashkent, I ] 1 

trade in, 105-7 

'Uthman's independent copy of, 

variatu readings, 99 

with irregular arrangement of suras, 

See also Ibn Mas'ud's Mushaf; 
Muslim bin Mishkam, 1 92 
Muslim state, stability of, 164 
Musnad of Ibn Hanbal, 1 78 
mutaba'a (muhaddithin term), 1 76 
Muttulib dan, hoycott of, 28 - 29 
Mu watta' of Malik, 178, 181, 192 
Muwatta' of Shaibani, 1 78 

Nabat bin IsmS'il, !21 

Nabatean script, 1 15, 1 1 7 

compared with Arabic, 1 18-20 

language of the Nabateans, 1 20- 1 

nabidh, 1 72 

Nadab, 220 

an-Nadim, Muhammad, KM», 199, 205 

Nadwa (catly Makkan instilution), 21 

Nali' bin Abi Nu'aim, i 3 1 

Nafi' bin Znraib, 89 

Najiya bin Rumh, 103 

Namarah, I! 8, 120 

Naphtali, 214 

narrators of hadith 
classilication of, 1 75-7 
di-tnmining trustworthiness of, 172 4 
journrying iti scarch of knowiedge, 

an-Nas, sura, 1 99 

Nasi' (early Makkan institution), 21 

Nasr bin ' Asini, 1 40 

nation-state, 20, 232 

an-Nawawi, Muhyiddm Yahya, 201 

Nebajoth bin Isma'il, 1 2 1 

Nebuchadnezzar, ktng, 223-4 

Negev (desert), 338 

Neusner, J., 225,248 

Nevo, Yehuda, 7, 337-8 

New Testament 

authorship of the gospels, 280-1 

contcmporary eorruption of the text, 

deliberate eorruption of, 277 

difficulties of using as historical 
document, 266-7 

disciples of jesus, 269-72 

divergences within the text of, 283-4 

doctrines and eorruption, 295-8 

Erasmus Bible, 290-1 

inspiration, 281-2 

oldest dated manuscripts, xvi-xvii 

rarity of Greek manuscripts; 285-6 

recensions, 284 

rrfcreiKTS (,, Propla'l Muhafnmact, 

scribal alterations, 288-9 

scribal interpolattons, 283 

study of, compared with study of 
Qur'an, 161 

text types (A!exandrian, Byzantine, 
Caesarean, Western), 283-4 

textual eorruption, 285 -9 

transmission of, 282-4 

Wcstcott and Hort and the number of 
variants therein, 303 

See also Christianity; Riblc 
Newman, Barclay, 292 
Nicene creed, 274-5 
an-Nisa'i, sunan of, 1 80 
Nisibis, 144 

nocturnal journey (Isra' and Mi'raj), 26 
Noideke, Theodor, 8, 53, 1 15, 306-7 
non-Muslims, learning from, 56 
North Arabic si-riju. 1 16 
Norton, Cherry, 54 
Nu'aim bin 'Abdullah, 67 
Nuh (Noah), 41 
Nuskhat Abu az-Zubair, 1 74 

O'Conner, ! 19 

Old Creed of Alexandria, 274 

Old Testament 

destruetion of old manuscripts, 246 
diserepancies between Samarkan and 

Jewish versions, 242-3 
ediled during Hellenistic period, 23 1 



examples of deliberate corruption of, 

gros? ovcrcslimates of ituiiibcr of 

Israelites, 216 
history according to modern scholars, 

history of, 227-32 
Jewish sources of the Torah, 235 
lack of authoritative text, 245 
Leningrad Codex, 238-40 
loss and rediscovery of Torah, 228-30 
Masoretic texts, 238-^M) 
non-Jewish sources of the Torah, 

oral transmission of, xvi 
original language of, 232-4 
references to Prophet Muhammad, 

search for an autlioritative text> 240-7 
study of, compared wilh study of 

Qur'an, 161 
unintentional corruption, 243-5 
variations, 241-2 
iVea&?Judaism; Bible 
Onias III, 225 
oral law of Judaism, 236-8 
oral transmission of Qur'an, xv-xvi, 

94-95, 148 
Oriental ism 

accusations of appropriation from 

Jewish sources, 306-7 
acknowledgement of integrky of the 

Our'anic iext, 206 
bias, 327-31 
Blachere's distortion of Quran, 

criticism of compilation of Qur'an, 

disregard for Muslim scholarship, 164 
Flugcl's deliberate dislorlions of 

Qur'an, 308-9 
Hurgronje, Snouck, 326-7 
Israel as motivation of, 336-8 
Jewish analogue, 321-5 
motives for study, 331-8 
necessity of proving distortions in 

Qur'an, 303 
San'a' fragmenis, 314—8 

synonym theory, 1 62-3 
theories on divergent rcadings, 155-9 
theories on Qur'f»i), 53 
theory of counterfeited Bible, 307-8 
usc of aberrant narrations, 1 59-62 
use of Biblical terminology in Islamic 
studies, 208, 305-6 

Origen, 289 

original sin, 297 


divcrgcncc, 204-5 
of European languages, 1 29-30 
history of thc Arabic charaeters, 1 1 5-8 
in non-Qur'anic seript, 145-8 
writing styles at the time of the 
Prophet, 130-1 

paid copyists, 106 
palaeography, 115, 135-9 

in non-Ojir'anic seript, 1 45-8 

See also orthography 
paleo-Hebrcw, 232 

spread of Qur'an to, 85 

suppression of history, 325-6 
Palestinian Talmud, 250 
palimpset, 312 
pan names, 165 
partial Mushafs, 73-76 
Pentateuch, 231, 242-3 
Peres, Shimon, 334 
persecution of eariy Christians, 276 
Pcrsians,36, 231 
personal Mushafs, 195 
Peter the disciple, 270-1 
Pcter the Venerable, 8, 330 
Pharaoh, 215 
Pharisees, 241 - 
i'haros, 16 

Philistines, Ark lost to, 229 
Phocnician alphabet, ! 15 
plagues of Egypt, 215 
pledge of 'Aqaba, 29-30 
pointing, 247-9 
politicised Islam, 318 
polytheists, effects of the Qur'an on, 




Power, 9 


as means of preservation of Qur'an, 

Imamate, 56-57 

order of verses, 72 
pre-Islamic era 

Arab religion, 22-23 

development of ihe Arabic script, 
1 15-8 

eariy Arabic alphabet, 122-4 

Madinah (Yathrib), 18 

Nabatean as dialect of Arabic, 1 18-21 

use of skeletal dots, 1 36-7 
Presbyters, 274 
Pretzl, O., 304 

privaie copies of the Qur'an, 101-2 
promiscuity among the Israelites, 220—4 , 
proofreading of the Our'an, 69, 106 
Prophet Muhammad (}|) 

accusations of sorcery, 50 

the amin, 24 

arrangement of the Qur'an, 70-71 
- assassination attempt, 30 

batelesof, 31-32 

birlh of, 24 

death of, 35-36 

final messcnger, 44—45 

first revelation, 25 

lettersof, (23-4 

in Madinah, 30-32 

marriage to Khadijah, 24 

migration to Madinah, 30 

miracles preceding his prophethood, 

preaching openly, 26-27 

rcfercnces to in the Riblc, 262 

roles regarding the Qur'an, 50-5! 

states during revelation, 46—47 

as teacher of the Qur'an, 59-60 

temptadons offerrd by the Quraish, 
27 28 

universaiity of, 4 1 
prophethood, 41 

propIlftS ;||f sillll'KN, XX 

nu-ssugr ol° tln- prophcts, 43 44 

public Hbraries, 1 07 

Puin, G.-R.Joseph, 4-7, 1 1-12,314-8 

Q,gospel, 277-8, 279-80, 296 

qari\ 94-95, 197 


as sunna, 152-4 
inaccuracies in, 204 
isnads for, 203 

Qiyada (early Makkan institu tion), 2 1 

Qubba (early Makkan institution), 2 1 

Quda'a (tribe), 36 

Qumran, 245, 251-6 


altering a word for its synonym, 162-3 
and anti-Semitism, 339 
arrangement of verse and suras, 

69-72, 72-76 
assault against, 342-3 
attempts to reduce to a cultural text, 9 
avoiding dissension through, 58—59 
calis for reinterpretation of, 1 1 
compared with the Bible, 54 
deliberate Orientalist distortions of, 

determining whether a verse belongs 

to, 203-6 
dialects, 62-63 
disputes in recitation, 87-88 
education of, 59-61, 60-64 
effects on the polytheists, 48-50 
enormity of forgetting, 58 
first century manuseripts, 316-7 
fint revelation, 25, 47-48 
huffaz, 64-66 

learning and teaching, 56-59 
merit of merely listening to, 57 
oral transmission, 94—95, 148 
Orientalist theories on, 53 
preservation of, 51, 7? 
proofreading of, 69, 106 
recitation with Jibril, 52-53 
revelation of, 45-47 
revisionism, 3-9 
scarches for ukerior sources, 8 
substituting with translations, 10 
theory of counterfeited Bible, 307-8 
wrilten recordings of, 67 68, 83 
Ste /lho c onipilatio» of Qur'aii; 

mushafs; multiple readtngs; suhuf; 
manuseripts; San'a'; recitation of 



Qur'an; stiras; "Uthman's 
Mushaf; Zaid bin Thiibit 

boycott of Muslims, 28-29 
dialect of, 87-88 
Qusayy, 19-21 
al-Qurazi, 196 
Qusayy, 19-21 
Ouzu'ah (iribe), 36 

RabbiAkiba, 246- -7 

Rabbijudah ha-Nasi, 250 


Ralada (early Makkan institution), 21, 22 

Rafi' bin Malik al-Ansari, 60, 68 

Raqush tombstooc, 1 19, 136 

Ras Shamra, 236 

Raza Library Coilcction, 1 3 1 

Razln bin Anas as-Sulami, 1 30 

reading certificates, 1 84—9 1 

Rebekah, 212-3 

recensions of the New Testament, 284 

recitation of Qur'an 

disputes in, 87-88 

with exegetical commentary, 162-3 

Orientalist synonym theory, 1 62-3 

as prophctic rolc, 50-5 1 

as sunna, 152-3 

rcciters, 94-95 

(hc sevcn most distinguished, 197 

use of the isnad system, 192 
Reeland, Adrian, 327 
Rehoboam, 219, 221 
Reimarus, Hermann, 267, 272 
religion, uprooting of, 336 
resurrection of Jesus, 207 
Reuben, 214 

first descent of, 25, 47^-8 

of Ojjr'^n, 45-47 

Orientalist theories on, 53 

suitability of the Arabic language, 164 
revisionism, 3-9, 327 
ar-rihla, 168 
Rippin, Andrew, 5, 9 
Robert of Ketton, 8 
Robson,J., 187 

Roman empire 

coiMjUcst of Jerusalcm, 225 

loss of Syria, 37 

persecution of early Chrtstians, 276 
Rowley, 230 

Sa'd bin Abi Waqqas, 26, 59 

Sa'd bin Mu'adh, 33 

Sadana (early Makkan institution), 2 1 

Safwan bin Umayya, 33 

Sahaba. See Companions 

Sahih of al-Bukhari, 178, 180 

Sahi bin Sa'd al-Ansari, 63 

Sa'ld bin al-'As, 89 

Sa'ld bin Jubair, 106 

Sa'ld bin Zaid, 61 , 67 

Said, Edward, xix, 327, 330 

Sa'fd, Ytlsur, 143 

Sajah bint al-Harith bin Suwaid, 35, 

Sakaka (city), 136 
Salar Jung Museum, 75-76 
Salat. See prayer 
Salim bin 'Abdullah, 107 
Salma bint 'Amr, 2 1 
Saltykov-Shchedrin Library, 238 
sama 1 (muhaddithui term), 1 78 
Samaritans, 242-3 
Samarqand, mushaf of, 111, 1 28 
Samuel, 218 
as-Samhudl, 104 

fragmems, 4-6, 12, 314-8 

mushafs of, 112 

mushafs showing diacritical marks, 
Sarah (Sarah), 16, 21 1-2, 256-8 
Sarawat mountains, 15 
Sassanid dynasty, 38 
Sartre,Jean-Paul, 335 
Saul, 218 
Sauvaget,J., 81 
Sawwar bin Shabib, 90 
Schaclu, Joseph, 8, 305, 326, 332-3 
seholars, 177-8 

conditions for using a book, 181-2 
ideological incompatibility, 325 



schools. Set education 
Schuror, 266 

imerpolating into texts, 182 

of the Qur'an, 67-68 

writing styles, 130-1 
Second Temple, 224-5 
secularisation, U, 331-2 
Seir, gods of, 222 
Semites, 15-16 
Seperationism, 277 
Septuagint, 242 
seven dialects, 1 53 
seven reciters, 197 
shadh (muhaddithin term), 176, 202 
shahada, xix 

Shaiba ibn Hashim. Ste 'Abdul-Muttalib 
ash-Shaibani, 202 
Shaibani, Muhammad, 1 78 
Shammai, 237 
Shanks, H., 253, 324, 326 
Shapham, 223 
ash-Sharq at-A\vsat, 4 
Shechem, 242-3 

Shiite Islam and the Qur'an, 197-8 
Shiloh, temple of, 218 
Shurahbil bin Hasana, 36 
Shuraih, 106 
Sibawaih, 145 

Sifarah (early Makkan institution), 2 1 
Simeon, 214 

Siqaya (early Makkan institution), 2 1 , 22 
Sirat Ibn lshaq, 309-10 
skeleta! dots, 135-9 
lack of as basis of Orientalist theory, 151, 

sources of, 1 43 -5 
Smith, A., 303 
Smith, G. R., 1 19 
Smith, W. C, 1 1 
Soeialism, 334 
Solomon. See Sulaiman 
Son of God 

idea absent from Q.gospel, 279-80, 

in Greek manuscripts, 286-8 
Sonof man, 288 
Soviet scholars, 4 

Spanish Inquisition, 333-4 

square script, 234 

StarckyJ., 115 

stone tablets, 216-7 

Strack, H., 333 

Strugnel!, John, 322-3 

Succeeding Successors, 177 

Successors, 177 

Suffa, 61-62 

Sufyan ath-Thawrl, 1 9 1 


archival of, 84-85 

compared with 'Uthman's 
compilation, 90-93 

compilation of, 84-85 

duplication of, 88 

entrusted to Hafsa bint 'Umar, 86 
Sulaim (tribe), 36 
Sulaiman (Solomon), 4 1 , 2 J 9 
as-Sulaml, 161,202 
Sumatra (major island in the 

Indonesian archipelago), 32 7 
Sunan Ibn Maja, 187-91 
sunna, 39 

basmala as separator, 109 

omitted sOras in Ibn Mas'ud's 
Mushaf, 199-202 

separators in mushaf of Malik bin 
Abi 'Amir, 102 

title as separator, 1 10 
Suwaid bin Muqarrin, 36 
Suwaid bin Sa'id al-HadathanT, !81 
Suwaid bin Samit, 60 
as-SuyOH, JalaJudin, 59, 172 
Syal, Rajee.v, 54 
synonym theor)', 162-3 
Syria, 37, 85 
Syriac script, 115-6, 143-5 

at-Tabari, 310 

Tabernacles, 228 

tabi'in, 177 

Tacitus, 266 

tafsir literature, 

Western criticism of, 1 1 
use of isnads in, 191 



Tahama, 36 

Tahir bin Muhammad al-Maqdisi, 1 88 

fa'if (city), [S, 126 

Taima' (city), 18,23 

Talha bin 'Ubaidullah, 26, 59 

Talmon, Shemaryahu, 241-2 

Talmud, 226 

alteration of text, 235 
Islamic influence, 250- 1 
opinion on 'Isa, xviii 
pointing (vocalization), 247-9 
Set aiso Babylonian Talmud, 
Palestinian Talmud 

Tamlm ad-Dari, 343 

Tashkent, mushaf of, 111 

tawatur, 83 

at-Tawba, sura, 83-84 

Tayy mountains, 18 

Tayy (tribe), 18, 23 

Temple of Solomon, 219 

Ten Commandments forgotten, 54 

terminus datum of Qumran, 252-6 

Tha'liba (tribe), 18 

Thaur (cave), 30 

Theophilus, 144 

thiqa (muhaddithm term), 1 72, 1 75 

Tiberian system, 249 

Tiqqune Sopherim, 244-5 

at-TirmidhT, Sunan of, 1 80 

Tisdall, 8, 303, 332 

title of sura, as separator, 1 10 

tolerance, 10-11 

Tolstov, 7 

tombstone of al-Hajri, 125-6 

tombstone of Aswan, 1 25 

tombstone of Fihr, 1 18 

Topkapi Sarayi, 105 


delivered to Levites, 228 

history according to modern scholars, 

Jcwish sources of, 235 
loss and rediscovery of, 228-30 
See also Old Tcstamcnt, Talmud; 

trade in mushafs, 105-7 

translations of ihe Qur'an, 1 

transmission of hadith compilations, 

transposition, 151 

tribal societies, 20-2 1 


based on questionable verses, 295 
Commajohanncum, 284, 290-1, 295 
contradicts oneness of God, 4 1 
in Greck manuscripts, 286-8 
idea of Son of God absent irom Q_ 

gospel, 279, 296 
introduction into creed, 274-5 
as proof that the Qur'an is not 
counterfeit, 307-8 

trustwonhiness of hadlth narrators, 
172-4, 175 

Tuiaiha bin Khuwailid, 35-36 

Turaifa bin Hajiz, 36 

Tiirk ve Islam Eserleri Mtizesi, 3 1 7 


attempts to replace the Our'an, 10 
shelter for Jews after ihe Inquisition, 

Tyndale, William, 206 

'Ubada bin as-Samit, 55, 63, 85 
'Ubaidullah bin Ziyad, 133 

among the authority reciters, 197 
in cornmittee for compilation of 

Quran, 89 
differences in recitation, 1 52 
hadith of the scven dialects, 153 
mushaf of, 72, 195,201,203 
on placement of verses, 7 1 
reciting Qur'an to the Prophet, 52 
spelling conventions, 90 
as teacher of the Companions, 62-63 

Ubulla (city), 36 

Ulrich, Eugene, 324 

'Umar bin al-Khattab 

compilation of Qur'an, 78, 305 
conversion of, 67 

development of diacrkical marks, 1 39 
differences in recitation, 152 
hadith about the Quran, 57 
hadith used as proof for synonym 

thcory, 162 
leaint dircctly from the Prophet, 62 
role in spread of Qur'an, 85-86 



territory gaine.d by, 37-39 

use of skeletal dots during reign of, 

use of the word 'adi, 1 72 

'Umar bin Shabba, 90 

Umayyad caliphate, 102 

Umra aljimal (city), ! 18 

Um-Sa'id bint Buzrug,' 64 

uncial script, 285 

universalism, 1 1 

'Uqab (early Makkan institution), 2 1 

'Uqba bin 'Amir, 63 

'Uqba bin Nafi' al-Fihri, 105 

Uriah, 218-9 

Usaid bin Hudair, 57 

Usul al-Fiqh, 251 

"Utba bin Rabfa, 27-28, 60 

'Uthman bin 'Affan 

among the authority reciters, 197 
atrangement of the Qur'an, 73 
Bayt al-Qaratis, 166 
conversion of, 59 
hadlth on learning the Qur'an, 56 
how isnad system was introduced, 168 
independent copy of mushaf, 88-97 
instructions concerning mushafs, 

introduction of the mushaf, 84-85 
oral transmission of Qur'an, 1 48 
resolving differences in recitation, 88 
territory gained by, 37-39 
See also 'Uthman's Mushaf 

'Uthman bin Abi al-'As, 62, 71 

'Uthman bin Maz'un, 59 

'Uthman's Mushaf 
deviating from, 205-6 
Orientalist theory of divergen! 

readings, 155-9 
orthography of, 131-5 
status of, 195 
studies on, 97-99 
use of basmala, 109 

Uzziah, 222 

Valerian (Roman emperor), 276 

Van Buren, Mascall, 10 

variant readings. See multiple readings 

Yernes, Geza, 324 
de Vogiie, M., 115 

von Dobschutz, 266 

vow of 'Abdul-Muttalib, 22 

Wabra bin Yuhannas, 64 

Wad! Murabba'at, 245, 251-6 

al-Wafi, 'AJI 'Abdul-Wahid, 143 

wahy. See revelation 

al-Walid bin al-Mughira, 49-50 

Wansbrough, xviii, 6-7, 9, 305, 333, 


wasiyya (muhaddithin term), 1 78 
Wensinck, A. J., xtx 
Westcott, 303 

Western text, NT text rype, 283 
Whitelam, Keith, 325-6 
wijada (muhaddithin term), 1 79 
Wilfmson, L, 117, 143 

chain of authority (isnads), 159-60 

compilation of the Qur'an, 305 

law of, 79-80 

personal contact, 167 
vorship, 41, 43 
written verses, 83 

diacritical marks, 139^-1 

dotting schemes, 135-9 
writing styles, 130-1 
W'urthwein, Ernst, 151, 234, 240-1, 247 

Ya'la., 46 

Ya'qub (Jacob), 41, 212-4 

Yahya bin Abi Katbir, 148 

Yahya bin Ya'mar, 140, 145 

Yamama, 36, 78 

Yathrib. See Madinah 

Yazid al-Farsi, 133 

Yazid bin 'Abdullah bin Qusait, 86 

Yazid bin Abi Sufyan, 37, 85 


mushafs of San'a', 112, 141-2 
parchments from Yemeni collection, 73 
San'a' fragments, 4-6, 12, 314-8 

Yusuf (Joseph),41,214 



/illiii(hrily), 11». 122 

/ulin. 266 

Zaid bin Thabii 

Abii liakr's imtiiictious 10. 7!l BI 
aimmsr ihc aulliorily ni'itcw, 197 
airaiigi'iiiciil ol" tlii - Qur'iin. 71. 7!5 
rompi lalimi «l' liir (jiu'an. 77 78, 

«9 -90 
t'i'cili'iilials «f, 7» 7!) 
haiullinj; i A' vaiiaiil icadin^s, 99 
iiK-morisation «l' Qiir'an, 61 
mcdiodolo^y «f' conipilation, 81- 85 
t>n motif ol" mulai ion. 46 
as itviUT, 94 

tv<-nin!> Qiii-'fm m ilit- l'mplii'i. ->2 
as so'ibe «I* Uh* IVophol. 61* 
mi Mil n ia i A' (|ira'ai, t J4 

/ani/ain. I (i. 22 

a/-/araklishl. liariruiUlin. ii'i 

Zrbnlimi. 21 I 

Zcdi kiah. 22: i I 

Zi-iis, allcis (u. iujmisali'in. '22.1 

Zilpali. ','1 I 

Zin I lin lliibaisb. 'i* II). 2112 

a/.-Zubaii bin WdT. 174 

az-Zuhaii" bin al-'Au-uSm. 26. 39 

az-Zuliri. 68 

Zurai<| {(ril)i'). 61